Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Snow and more snow

Brrrrrrrrrrr. An Almost-Wordless Wednesday post.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Red in the Morning...

Red in the morning,
Sailor take warning…
"This old saying actually has a scientific explanation. It relates to moving high and low surface-pressure weather systems, and the way that the colors in sunlight are scattered differently by dirty and clean atmospheres. This is the explanation of how these phenomena combine to color our sunrises and sunsets." (NOAA link
I read then reread the NOAA page, trying to absorb the explanation of how a low pressure system has a cloudy and cleaner atmosphere causing different scattering of blue vs red light rays, etc. The diagrams helped and I thought I had a grasp on it, right up to the statement:
"A cleaner atmosphere at sunrise or sunset is colored by a mixture of all but the blue colors, giving it a yellowish appearance."
What? this week the atmospheric pressure was high, very high, and this is what a sunrise looked like… definitely yellowish. So much for science and folk wisdom - this calls for further study. 

Several cold, clear blue sky days brought frost to the boat decks and to the dock, freezing puddles of standing water that didn't thaw for days.

Finally this so-called Arctic Blast produced a lovely, early December snowfall. Snow shovels and brooms were put to good use, over and over, as the snow kept falling throughout the day. Almost six inches of snow fell, turning the marina into a black and white version of it's usually colorful self.

Some feathered critter managed to find a food source underneath the blanket of white... 

…while the local feral cats looked uncomfortable, waiting for their usual morning feeding from a small group of volunteers.

The tidal range was quite small this week, making the ramp to shore less challenging than it might have been. It was a slippery climb, but manageable.

This snowplow started work early, not waiting for the snow to pile up before clearing the road and parking lot. He kept busy all day, pushing the snow into small mountains around the shopping center.

Man-made objects added eye-catching spots of color to the black and white landscape ashore. While I enjoyed my morning walk, the cold got to me, I was ready to head back inside and warm up again with a hot cup of something. (link)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Under Cover for the Winter?

Not the Rhapsody

How do you protect a boat from the worst effects of winter weather? Without storing a vessel in a boathouse, local boat owners use a variety of methods to deal with the occasional winter snow, and the more common ice and driving rain in the Pacific Northwest. Recently the daytime air temperatures have dipped below freezing, but the saltwater has maintained a steady 43-44 F throughout the week. This makes it possible to leave boats in the water for the winter, rather than hauling them out to store on the hard.

Most boats are left open to the weather, hopefully watertight and leakproof. Other vessels sport tidy canvas covers, casual tarps, industrial grade polysomething shrink-wrapping, and more. On a sunny Autumn day the covered boats remind me of postponed adventures, parked on some mental shelf until… who knows when?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Looks Like Winter, Feels Like Winter

Brrrrrr! Yes, it's that cold even though official winter is still three weeks away. Evidently Mother Nature doesn't pay attention to the calendar, it's cold enough to be winter right now. Frost covered the boat's caprails and decks early this morning, and the icy puddles on the dock remained frozen until the sunshine warmed them mid-morning. Regardless of temperature, the day was lovely and I found several excuses to walk around the marina in between our boat projects, my galley efforts, etc. 

Photo: Early morning view thru the pilothouse window

Photo: Snow on the westerly peaks, with much more predicted this week.

Photo: Beautiful sunset, with advancing storm clouds.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Smith Inlet, Part 2

The scenery changed as we moved farther up the inlet. Smith transitioned into a beautiful fjordlike channel with deep forested side valleys that drew the eye to ever higher peaks looming in the distance. The sunnier the day became, the more impressive r the scenery appeared - I can be such a fickle, weather-influenced tourist.

It was a surprise to round a bend near the head of the inlet and come upon the floating Great Bear Lodge. (Do explore their photo gallery for some terrific wildlife shots). 

We anchored in a small niche around the point from the lodge, feeling quite alone in this beautiful wilderness. Positioning the anchor in 110 feet of water, equidistant between shore and a series of shoaling mudbanks, was an interesting activity, and avoiding the several crab pots sharing the niche only added to the challenge. No problem, we rode comfortably through a series of tide changes without coming close to shore, shoals or crab pots. Masses of seals spent hours loafing and vocalizing on those nearby mudbanks when the shoals were exposed at low tide. At times the neighborhood grew quite noisy. 

The salmon run was just beginning to run up the Nekite River and we hoped the presence of fish would draw the grizzlies. I cautioned myself not to expect too much as we set out upriver in the skiff on a rising tide. Initially we saw little wildlife, primarily birds. Kingfishers made a few dive-bombing runs at us, crowds of Canadian geese fed in the marshy flats, and families of merganzers paddled furiously into side channels when we passed. 

After motoring along slowly for 90 minutes, we finally saw some grizzlies, the first and only of the summer for us. A large grizzly sow with two cubs appeared at a gravel bar along the bank. Mom fished for salmon while the cubs splashed in the water alongside, observing her technique or maybe just playing. The sow was very wary, so we kept our distance and wished for longer camera lenses. As the water rose with the tide, it covered the gravel bar and the bear wandered off into the brush. Our bear watching was over all too soon, but our timing was good and we were lucky. 

We returned to the big boat in time to watch a commercial crabber pull his pots, and reset them again in a ring around our anchor niche. Those fishermen worked hard for very little return.

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.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Loggers, Logging, and Log Rafts

Forest products are big business in B.C., and Dean Channel is clearly an important resource center. Logging equipment and camps were active here and there along the shore...

...and logging roads, old and new, wound along the slopes heading up into nearby valleys. I wonder how long it takes for new growth to mature and be ready to harvest.

The chart for Jenny Bay indicated a tempting spot to anchor, tucked away in a small niche behind a point. It must have been a great spot -  two logging camp barges were already situated there. We could have shared the bay, but the other mooring sites would not be as protected from afternoon winds and chop as that little niche. We moved on.

This old hulk was interesting to view and puzzle over. I wonder what its function was, and how and when did it end up on shore and upside down? 

Here's a puzzle: there are bushes on shore behind this log skid indicating it is no longer used, but there is a raft with fresh logs at the foot of the skid. Does the rusty metal skid indicate disuse or daily contact with salt water? I wonder. 

The logger manning the tiny yard tug had to work hard to tighten up the boom chains, doing the job the same way it has been done for decades... by hand. Obviously, logging is not for wimps. I wonder how much technology has changed the process over time, especially in remote areas? I wonder about a lot of things.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Along Dean Channel

We cruise happily on salt water each year, spending considerably less time on the many freshwater lakes, rivers and streams along the way. This year we planned to do more freshwater day trips in the skiffs and kayaks as we traveled the B.C.coast. The Capt. was eager to run up both Dean Channel  Smith Inlet to their heads and explore the great rivers that empty there. These were two very different excursions. 

Dean Channel is a long, winding fjordlike channel with 65 miles of dramatic scenery, punctuated with tall, snow-covered peaks, steep-sided valleys and deep underwater canyons. 

Photo: The bottom of the channel is 700 feet below the hull; that's plenty deep!

Photo: Wow! it's 1518 feet deep in the channel, so close to shore. The contour lines indicate steep slopes up to the surface, which usually continue up into steep cliffs above the water. 

It's hard to imagine the difficulty of overland travel through this rugged portion of B.C.'s coastal mountain range, but Scottish explorer Alexander MacKenzie did just that. He arrived here in 1793, completing the first east to west crossing of North America reaching to the Pacific. His party was 10 years ahead of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and MacKenzie missed meeting explorer George Vancouver in nearby Bella Coola by 48 days. MacKenzie recorded his arrival by writing this inscription on a rock above the tideline, historic graffiti of a sort: 
"Alex MacKenzie / from Canada / by land / 22d July 1793"

Photo: Sir Alexander MacKenzie marker in Dean Channel
Elcho Bay welcomed us as a base location, a scenic spot sheltered from afternoon winds and channel chop outside in Dean Channel. The winding Elcho River offered lovely scenery on a dinghy excursion, but birds were the only visible wildlife. However an unseen but very noisy something crashed through the bushes alongside us. The water was shallow, the river was narrow, and I could imagine all sorts of scary possibilities. We shouted, we sang, we made a lot of noise as we reversed and headed back downstream toward the bay. The crashing continued along with us, keeping pace with the skiff until we exited the river. We never saw the mystery critter, and maybe that's a good thing. 

Photo: A channel at the mouth of the Elcho River.

Photo: Elcho River where the water becomes too shallow to transit further by dinghy.

Photo: The tiny dot on the water is Rhapsody at anchor in Elcho Bay.
Several other bays along Dean Channel are noted for their hot springs. We poked the bow into two, but didn't stay to explore. Tiny Eucott Bay had other boats at anchor and Nascall had unfriendly Keep Out!! warnings posted everywhere. I'd love to return when the salmon are running and bear are more likely to appear in the estuary.  

The Dean River is legendary for its steelhead run, but we didn't know that when we cruised by, pausing only for photos. Later I found this testimonial on a fishing lodge webpage:
"A mile and a half from the mouth of the river lies the Dean River canyon- a narrow, steep section with strong current and many small falls. For an anadromous fish to successfully navigate this section on its way to spawn, it must be not only strong but resilient. Evolution has dictated that there are simply no weak Dean fish- any steelhead in the Dean with less than world-class athletic ability will quickly fall out of the gene pool, losing its battle with the canyon.
Dean River steelhead crush flies. They jump repeatedly. They torch drags. They sprint downriver. They sometimes sprint upriver. They don’t quit, and they often leave shaken anglers wondering what the heck just happened on the end of their line."
Photo: Anglers begin a run up the Dean River.
Photo: Dean River's mouth barely hints at the steep canyon and rugged country beyond.
Dean Channel continues on past the Dean River delta and actually ends at the Kimsquit River estuary. The Kimsquit empties with several wide, winding and shallow channels filled with debris. The scattering of trees that litter the river delta here hint at the power of this river when it floods. The area displays weathed evidence of 20th century logging, new growth deciduous trees outline old logging roads and log dumps remain along the shore. 

It was late in the afternoon, the wind was up and weather was changing. With no sheltered anchorages close by, we wisely turned and ran back to Elcho Bay for a worry-free night.  

Photo: The entrance to Elcho Bay was a welcome sight.