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)

Back in port... briefly

We returned to Campbell River a few days early, ready for Mom's arrival later in the week. The Capt is busy with routine maintenance projects and I'm working on the usual domestic things. We're never too busy to enjoy the frequent drop-in visits from friends and other boaters, good reasons to take an occasional break and swap summer stories.

The wi-fi connection is strong and fast today so I'll post a few updates and photos soon. Good grief, there are a lot of stories to share and even a dolphin movie to link, if the wi-fi will hold connection that long. Can it really be three weeks since my last post?!!

Stay tuned...