Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Great Blue Heron

Our Noisy Dock Neighbor

We have a very noisy neighbor here in the harbor, loud and obnoxious, yet I miss him when we leave. This large blue heron makes his presence known at all hours of the day and night, when someone or something startles him, or wanders too close to his perch, or flies overhead, or whenever, just for the hell of it. His raucous squawk is at odds with his rather dignified appearance, a well-groomed, serious-looking dude until the wind ruffles his feathers. 

What a surprise that he ignored me today as I walked out on the boat deck to snap his picture yet again. He was perched atop a piling across the main pier, but the tide was high so we were eyeball to eyeball, sort of, at a distance of 20 feet or less. He must consider me a nuisance not worthy of a squawk. How annoying. The heron in Seattle are so nervous around me that they take flight as soon as I open a door, more than 60 feet away. This big guy just dissed me as harmless. Perhaps he enjoyed posing while I clicked away, frame after frame... unlike all of the other times when he turned his back just as I had the perfect shot composed. 


Sunday, October 24, 2010

October Storms

It’s a good day to be at the dock, checking the mooring lines and working on inside projects. It’s definitely not a good time to be out cruising on the local waters. Oh no, it’s far too lumpy and windy out there.

The barometer above only shows part of the plunge in barometric pressure for the past 24 hours. The needle on the right indicates the pressure at 0800 Saturday and the one on the left points to the pressure at 0830 today, Sunday. What you don't see is the even lower pressure in the very early morning hours. I woke up to hear the wind howling, I felt the boat moving, but I wasn’t about to jump out of a warm bunk to snap a photo!  

Today’s 0400 VHF marine weather reported a 963 MB low located 120 miles SW of Cape St. James at the southern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands, and called out hurricane force winds NW of Vancouver Island. I believe it, 'cuz it's still pretty peppy here on the east coast midway up the island.

The 0900 local lighthouse and buoy reports called out some impressive numbers from the first of two fronts moving through… 
 - Queen Charlotte Strait, gale warning, winds SW 35 to 45 knots
 - Johnstone Strait, gale warning, winds SW 35 to 45 knots
 - Chatham Point, winds 30 knots and gusting, seas moderate
 - Cape Mudge, winds 35 and gusting, seas 6 foot moderate
 - Georgia Strait north of Nanaimo, winds SW 34 to 45

“Gusting” is such an vague word, it suggests a little increase in strength but cannot convey the impact of the building force and punch of a 65 knot wind gust.

Inside Discovery Harbor the highest gust I’ve noted today on our small weather station was 36 knots. That was enough to move us around a bit and really wobble the nearby sailboats. Their masts carve an impressive arc in the air as they roll. Strong winter storms usually come from the south, but we moor on the north side of the pier and blow off the dock instead of squishing our bumpers and blowing onto the dock. The Capt. is conservative and has the boat well secured. The locals laughingly call him SpiderMan, referring to the number of lines he uses. (You get a glimpse of the web in an earlier post.) Today's blow provided a really good read on how well the ten mooring lines are positioned, and whether any need to be adjusted after their 24-hour stretch.

We don’t need the second weather front to roar through tonight, not really. Couldn’t we just skip it and move on to calmer, drier days? Soon, please?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Desolation Sound part 2

It finally happened, I've run out of words. So here's a photo tour of parts of the week's family cruise in Desolation Sound. (Click on any photo to view it full screen.) 

Cast of Characters

Photo: Mom is happy to be aboard as we ham it up in our hats.

Photo: Happy Hour in the sunshine always brings smiles

Cruise Locations 

Photo: no story here, just an intriguing dead madrona tree on Hernando Isl.

Photo: sunset in Prideaux Haven, with a few neighbors

Photo: Refuge Cove hasn't changed too much over the years,

Photo: ...but what's with the vehicles in the brush?

Photo: Pendrell Sound pictographs or maybe just graffiti? What do you think?

Photo: A full dock in Squirrel Cove dock, so we anchored in the back bay.

Photo: Sister City Paris (France)? for real?

Photo: All alone at the Shoal Bay dock - a very long walk to and from shore.

Photo: Mom checks out the honeysuckle at the Shoal Bay Pub

Wildlife Sightings

 Mitlenatch Island housed hundreds of birds, including black cormorants, 

scores of black cormorants everywhere you looked,

except where there were large colonies of seals,

which was pretty much everywhere

along the entire shoreline.

Photo: Seals bask in the suns at mid-tide

Of Special Note

Photo: Mom is the day's Mexican Train champion.

Photo: HMS Calgary, was impressive making a tight 90 degree turn around us to head into the passage we had just vacated, outside of Chameleon Bay. This frigate really listed!

Photo: Foggy challenge for our morning run back to Campbell River.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Desolation Sound

On his exploratory visit in 1792 Vancouver named the region Desolation Sound because “there was not a single prospect that was pleasing to the eye”. Present day cruisers would certainly disagree, especially during the good weather/warm water months. We spent a mostly sunny week in the area when Mom visited in mid-September.

The plan was to revisit some of the territory we had enjoyed with our previous boats, before we began cruising in Alaska.  Desolation Sound is a popular destination and close to Campbell River, but I truly did expect to see few cruising boats in these waters after Labor Day. Wrong! we had plenty of company almost everywhere we traveled, in anchorages and on the VHF.

Enroute to Prideaux Haven we spotted a work boat with an unusual profile. What was that cargo? oysters, bags and bags of oysters, piled high and spilling over the gunwales.

 It seemed that everywhere we traveled we saw oyster farms, some large and some small, some precise and orderly

...while others were a bit more casually arranged.

Oystermen in Refuge Cove took a different approach.

Who ever thinks about oysters, pondering their strange life cycle changes or even their economic history and impact? M.F.K. Fisher's Consider the Oyster is a worthy read, but I'd rather consider their consumption. Ah, but that would be on the other blog. Oyster season was still closed so we didn't harvest any wild ones, but it was incredibly tempting, surrounded by miles of shoreline blanketed with layers of those succulent bivalves.   

Thursday, September 16, 2010


photo: the peek-a-boo view of outside waters from inside Kisameet 

What makes a really good anchorage? We talked about this last night and came up with a partial list of desirable features. 

1. It is bombproof, protected from all winds and not subject to williwaws
2. It has room enough to swing without requiring a shore tie
3. The bottom is sticky, with good holding power
4. It has a serpentine entrance, so outside swells don't enter
5. There is a view to water conditions outside the anchorage
6. There is good VHF weather radio reception
7. There are no surprises, like uncharted rocks, reefs or ledges

... and I am sure the Capt. had more to add, but I fell asleep. Optional items on my list would include a waterfall, scenic beauty, entertaining wildlife and so on. Optional, but nice.

Kisameet is one of the anchorages we visit each year that nicely meets the above criteria. Well, except for the captain of one cruise ship who had an issue with #7, though his surprise was over a charted rock. The NTSB report of the grounding and sinking makes for interesting reading.

Klemtu, a Kitasoo Village

Photo: Shoreline reflections in Jackson Passage. Rotate 90 degrees and you can almost get a totem effect

September 1-2
Klemtu is located on Swindle Island, one channel west of our usual route down the much larger Finlayson Channel. We paused briefly at the Klemtu fuel dock in 2000, but had not been back since. On the 2000 trip we didn't seem to pass up a fuel dock anywhere (fast boat, gas engines, short range). 

This year we found space at the village dock and enjoyed our two days there, meeting people and noting some of the changes in town. For starters the two large cranes that greeted us on approach were hard to miss... visually that is. The new ferry dock will support the Port Hardy-Prince Rupert ferry run, with a weekly stop during the good weather portion of the year, and every two weeks during fall and winter months. 

Photo: 1 of the 2 cranes in place to build the new ferry dock

The new longhouse/big house is well-sited and visually stunning, providing an attractive welcome to the village.

Photo: the Big House, with interior poles carved by Junior Henderson

Photo: View across the harbor from the dock

Tourism is an increasingly important economic focus in Klemtu.  Take a moment and click here to link to their Spirit Bear site. Enjoy the video and catch a glimpse of the rare Kermode bear, the Spirit Bear, a black bear that is white. They are not albinos, but carry a genetic characteristic that causes one black bear in ten to have a white coat. 

Eric and Trish (M/V Great Bear II), of Ocean Adventures Charter Co. were also at the dock. We enjoyed their enthusiasm and information. Their website has some terrific bear photos, and whale photos, and ... and it makes me want to improve my photography skills. I'm certainly ready for a return visit to the area to look for Kermode bear.

No special reason to include this photo here, but doesn't he look salty?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lowe Inlet and the View

Photo: Verney Falls roars at low tide on a sunny day 

August 30-31

45-mile long Grenville Channel offers a sheltered, inside route south from Prince Rupert. It's a scenic run, well sprinkled with waterfalls and frequented by cruise ships, ferries, workboats and barges, fishing boats, sailboats and cruisers like us. the Grenville is an attractive highway, when fog or heavy rain don't obscure the scenery.

Photo: Verney Falls during a downpour

We ran to the south end of the channel, bypassing three other good anchorages to set the hook inside Lowe Inlet. Hooray, there were no other boats inside when we arrived so we could anchor directly in front of the falls. That was a first for Rhapsody. The view was terrific and the current kept us centered and steady for two days. Two other cruisers joined us later in the day, and we shared the view from the prime anchor site.

Having neighbors turned out to be a good thing, they provided an afternoon of entertainment. Not so much the several attempts to anchor their boats securely, but the human antics as they clambered over the rocks at the falls. Avid photographers, they rafted their equipment to the base of the falls and then stretched out to hang over the water and shoot the jumping fish. The videographer was wet but happy, definitely more cheerful than his buddies taking still shots.

We and the photographers focused on the falls at high tide each day when scores of salmon leapt skyward, fighting the torrents of water that thunder down the falls, working their way up to the stream and lake beyond. So few salmon appeared successful that it seemed there might be a secondary route upstream, a back channel with less velocity or more ledges and resting pools. We should hike the area and check it out... maybe next year.  

Hunt Inlet

August 29
We saw 8 whales on the run to Prince Rupert, 2 of them repeatedly fin-slapping the water, but all at a distance as we crossed Dixon Entrance. Binoculars came in handy, but I'd rather have changed course to whale watch at closer range. Well, maybe not, since it was a long, big-water crossing. 

We cleared Canadian Customs by phone at a dock in Prince Rupert, but chose to keep on moving and anchor out south of town. Hunt Inlet was a convenient and protected spot, nothing special, but the late afternoon light on the trees caught my eye. It was pretty dramatic, don't you agree?

Our closest neighbor that night was the Canadian Coast Guard Cutter, M/V Kitmat II. 

Boca De Quadra

August 28
We had set a 2010 cruise goal to explore new territory, to slow down and change the standard routes from one favorite spot to the next. Boca de Quadra fit the bill as new territory. It is along a typical course, but we have ignored it each year as we rushed past, on the way to some other destination. This inlet suffers from inconvenient geography. It is located along the route to nearby Ketchikan where northbound boaters must check in with U.S. Customs upon entering Alaskan waters. It’s also close to Foggy Bay, a convenient anchorage for southbound boaters waiting for weather before crossing Dixon Entrance enroute to Prince Rupert, B.C. and checking-in with Canadian Customs. 

We were intrigued by an interesting chapter on Wilderness Sea Coasts in friend Pat Roppel’s book, Misty Fiords, and altered course to explore the inlet. Most of Boca De Quadra, with its several long fiords, felt like pure wilderness, rugged and isolated. Mountains towered above while dense evergreen forests crowded the steep and rocky shoreline. We felt peacefully isolated, until we headed into Mink Bay and found a large tourist lodge located at the site of an old cannery (cannery built in 1896 by Quadra Packing Co.) 

Misty Fjords Lodge was quite an impressive establishment, apparently open but empty when we cruised by.

The several totems were dramatic, but seemed oddly detailed in places, or at least not completely traditional. Impressive, nonetheless.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Meyers Chuck - the back chuck

August 25-26
The main bay was bustling with activity as cruising boats, trollers and skiffs moved about. Residents Dan and Carol and their visiting friends built a new U.S. Mail package delivery shelter near the seaplane dock, while chain saws and hammers from other project sites added to the DIY symphony.

Photo: Louisa kayaks the back chuck

Louisa (S/V Martin Eden) and I headed to the back chuck, enjoying the peace and quiet disturbed only by the dipping of our paddles and the splash of returning salmon leaping alongside our kayaks. What a lovely, tranquil afternoon spent in good company. (I have totally forgiven Louisa for trouncing me at Scrabble earlier this week)