Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Raitt Narrows Cove: fog and fish

We set out in sunshine, turned the corner at the end of a passage in the McNaughton Group, and WHAM! thick fog enveloped us. This was the dense, can't-see-anything-beyond-100-feet kind of fog that persisted through most of the morning. Our course zigzagged through water filled with rocky shoals and islets and heavily sprinkled with drift logs and masses of debris. "Activate the foghorn and stay alert." So much for the relaxing, scenic excursion we had planned. Our attention was totally focused on the radar screen, the chart display on the computer monitor and the blurry view of the water directly in front of the bow. 

One faint blip on the radar screen was out of place, not correspondig to any obstacles shown on the chart, It remained still, then moved towards us on an intersecting path. We officially had right-of-way and maintained course and speed, but it's always good to be cautious and ready for the unexpected. That faint blip turned out to be a lone sport fisherman who was rigging his fishing gear in the stern of his small, very small, craft instead of running the boat. What an idiot! RL throttled back, the fisherman cruised by close in front of us, never acknowledging our presence, and disappeared again into the fog. He might have ignored our foghorn sounding every 60 seconds, but I'll bet he was aware of the anchor on our dark blue bow looming 14 feet above him as he putted past.

The fog finally lifted and we finished the trip with good visibility to run through Raitt Narrows. These basking seals barely stirred as we entered the passage on a low tide. 

The recent sunny weather has been accompanied daily by gusting 15-20 knot afternoon winds and now by morning fog. It adds some interesting considerations to running tricky passages, and even encourages sleeping in. For example, friends on M/V Maria Maru had planned an early departure from Raitt, but waited several hours longer until the fog had lifted enough to see the nearby shore.

It was a short run in the skiff from our anchorage outside to Idol Point, a favored fishing spot in Seaforth Channel. On a 2-hour fishing trip mid-morning we hooked 5 salmon, RL released several and I lost a big one that leapt and ran several times before throwing the barbless hook. Drat! I hate barbless hooks, OK, I shouldn't complain, the two bright coho were more than enough for several days of barbecued salmon, iron-skillet salmon, salmon salad or salmon burgers and at least one batch of lox. Then we'll go fishing again... or crabbing... or prawning...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

McNaughton Group, Queens Sound

Queens Sound is the outer coastal region between the northern end of Calvert Island and Seaforth Channel. The area is best described as undeveloped wilderness... an archipelago with empty outside waters extending as far as the eye can see... exposed rugged shorelines piled high with jumbles of storm-tossed logs... rolling hills covered with a bristling crew cut of struggling evergreens... an amazing maze of channels and passages winding through countless islands, islets and rocks... and more interesting coves and niches than we could visit in a lifetime of cruising. In short, it is a cruising paradise in settled weather and a challenge during storms and/or dense for. This week brought sunshine, warm weather and occasional peppy winds to keep the biting black flies away. Perfect!

The region is well know for its salmon fishery, good fishing but no longer great as in past decades. The canneries have long since disappeared and fishing lodges are now reduced in number, but this week kings, coho and pinks were all plentiful in the area. What? all three species running at the same time? It seemed surprising but it made for fun fishing and great eating. The VHF radio crackled for days with fishermen bragging about their catch-and-release numbers of 20-30-40-50 salmon a day. All right, let's go fishing!

After you admire the blue sky, the perfectly still water and the amazing reflections, then add the anticipation of a just-caught salmon on the barbecue for dinner at night. What a perfect day/week/month in northern B.C.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Hurricane Island, Queens Sound

We backtracked about twelve miles southwest from Kisameet to run through Nalau Passage outside into Queens Sound. Outside travel took us north along a rugged coastl that felt wide open to the ocean. Low swells and minimal wind made the trip a scenic treat in the lee of some low, offshore islands, but when we traveled in more exposed water the stabilizers were much appreciated!

Storm-tossed logs littered the water and the shoreline for mile after mile, stranded until a super high tide or strong swells set them afloat again. These floating hazards are much easier to spot when sea gulls hitch a ride.

A cove at the southern tip of Hurricane Island was the overnight choice for Rhapsody and Jericho. This island was named after a WW II fighter plane, as were several others in the area.
"During the early years of the war when these islands were still unnamed, Canadian and U.S. pilots were based at Shearwater east of Bella Bella. As the pilots began flight patrols over the coast they gave names to each island to help identify coastal checkpoints--Aircobra, Spider, Spitfire, Mosquito, Lancaster, Kittyhawk, Typhoon, etc. all legendary airplanes used in the Battle of Britain." (Douglass)
Our "bomb-proof" anchorage had room for several boats, and we had a few neighbors anchored nearby. It's nice to have a little company when you travel outside waters.  

Sunday, July 21, 2013

FitzHugh Sound

Green Island Anchorage

We left Lagoon Cove at dawn along with M/V Jericho, planning to round the corner at Cape Caution and transit Queen Charlotte Sound in reasonable flat water. It had been sunny and windy along the Central Coast for days, with pesky northwesterlies adding chop on top of ocean swells, but the 4 a.m. weather report from Egg Island Lightstation sounded encouraging. Of course the Capt had alternate Plan B (and C and D) if conditions deteriorated, but it turned out to be an easy crossing.

Photo: Addenbroke Lightstation
New to us, Green Island Anchorage is a cozy spot north of Addenbroke Lightstation and close to FitzHugh Sound. Close means we don't have to travel extra miles just to run in and out again, always a good thing if you're in a hurry. No hurry for us this year. This site was pretty and the absence of drift logs on the beach means it's well protected. The name, not noted on our charts, just might come from a distinctive shrub and berry-covered little islet inside.

Photo: It Really Is A Green Island
On past crossings after rounding Cape Caution we have anchored in Fury Cove or Little Frypan Bay on Penrose Island, just north of Rivers Inlet. Today it was worth traveling ten miles farther north to check out this quiet anchorage near the entrance to Fish Egg Inlet. We explored parts of Fish Egg in the late 1990s. This sprawling inlet was a wilderness then, uncharted until 1991; an isolated wild, remote, quiet rainforest of a place. Intriguing, but not compelling enough that we've been drawn to return and explore further.

Kisameet Bay
Jericho stopped to fish enroute to Kisameet while we continued on to anchor. The bay was empty when we arrived, so we dropped the hook in our favorite spot behind an island, well-protected from wind and swell but with a view outside to check the conditions outside in Fisher Channel. 

Photo: View from Inside Kisameet Bay Looking Outside to Fitzhugh Sound
Kisameet feels so remote, situated well away from towns or active settlements, but the crumbling cabin on the point gives evidence of activity here some time in the past. I can only imagine the stories that cabin could share

Jericho arrived to raft alongside us with an invitation to join them for a fresh halibut dinner. Yum! 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lagoon Cove

The marina looked to be the same busy place as always, but Bill's welcoming presence was noticeably absent. We have years of good memories stored from previous visits, and so many of those memories include Bill Barber. But as usual, we connected with old friends and made new ones, hiked the grounds, enjoyed piles of fresh prawns and delicious appetizers along with interesting conversations at each evening's Happy Hour, and made good use of the last internet and cellphone connection for weeks to come. 

(Note: This post was written on July 16 but it took until August 7 in Shearwater to find wi-fi, and that connection was e-v-e-r s-o  s-l-o-w.)

Otter Cove to Lagoon Cove

Photo: Ground fog forming in Johnstone Strait

4:30 wake-up alarm, 5:00 pull anchor. It’s surprisingly light at 4:30, an invitation to hurry up and get moving before the winds kick up. At 1500 rpm our speed over ground ranged from 9.6 to 4.5 knots due to current effects. Amazingly flat water made log watch an easy chore, though there wasn’t much junk in the water to spot; some compensation for the slow speed I suppose. Ground fog developed later in the morning as the sun’s warmth caused moisture to rise, creating a changeable mosaic of blurred shapes and muted colors as it swirled along the channels and climbed up forested ridges. The patterns were pretty to view, but hey! turn on the radar to keep navigation sharp and focused.

Photo: Range marker in Chatham Channel - when the two vertical white bars line up, you are right on course
Life seemed quieter as we traveled up island, almost lonely until we enountered some traffic at the entrance to Chatham Channel, a restricted passage with several dogleg turns. The channel is well marked with navigation aids but can appear challenging to first-time travelers. Several boats ahead of us might have been unfamiliar with the area, the range markers and daymarker system, because they traveled cautiously at near-idle speed as they set up to enter the channel. At least one boat used paper charts to navigate through; not a bad thing but we’ve grown used to electronic charting programs that provide improved visual display and reference to course and navigation aids.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Campbell River to Otter Cove

Photo: Inside Otter Cove looking out
Early morning appointments kept us busy until it was too late to make the morning slack current at Seymour Narrows. No problem, that gave RL more time to work on a diesel issue in the aft lazarette and Dee ran to the local pet store to pick up a case of Carlyle Tuna Cat Food. Cat food? This brand is reputed to be the real deal for prawning, “…all the commercial guys use it.” Why would we argue with the professionals? At $15 per case, it is worth a try.

Sitting around in 78 F. sunshine until 4:00 p.m. just seems wrong when you’re eager to get moving, but running the Narrows against a heavy 9-knot current was not a reasonable option, not when you travel at 9 knots.. So we waited, worked on more projects, waited some more, and finally departed in late afternoon. We cruised north in Discovery Passage, in light, choppy water with 15-knot winds under a cloudless blue sky. Lovely. Overnight moorage in Otter Cove positioned us nicely for a long run out Johnstone Strait in the morning.

Photo: This bluff gave some protection against NW winds
We have anchored in Otter Cove before, waiting out slack at the Narrows or setting up for a Johnstone run. The cove is comfortable, well protected from the prevailing NW winds and accompanying choppy water, its flat, rocky bottom provides good holding. It can be a bit noisy when the anchor chain moves around, but you soon grow used to the sound as background noise. An unplanned surprise came at midnight when two cruise ships passed by close to Chatham Point, each trailing a heavy wake that rocked the boat enough to awaken us. Boat rules state “Secure all items when cruising or at anchor” so there was no cleanup required. Back to sleep.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

More Windy Travel

Nanaimo Harbor to False Bay, Lasqueti Is
High wind warnings continued; NW winds smacking into opposing strong ebb currents made for rough water in Georgia Strait on the run north. False Bay on Lasqueti Island offered a comfortable anchorage with calm water for an overnight stop between Nanaimo and Campbell River. A passenger ferry from Vancouver Island services this small island community twice daily, but during our stay we counted more deer than people around the shoreline.

One large old waterfont estate captured our attention, its shabby, weathered exterior and sagging steps presenting a sad contrast to an intact shingle roof. Was this a lingering work in progress? or perhaps a suspended restoration attempt? What’s the history of this once grand house and its inhabitants? 

False Bay to Discovery Harbor, Campbell River
I was totally awake at 0230, anticipating the 0330 wake-up alarm and ready to get moving. A rising wind stirred the water inside False Bay, creating wavelets that rocked the boat with increasing vigor. We pulled anchor and departed in early light at 0430, eager to reach Discovery Harbor Marina. Once again strong winds and some interesting currents created changeable conditions. Speed over ground ranged from 5.7 knots, intentionally slowed to minimize pounding in choppy seas, to 11.6 knots, pushed along in smoother water by a favorable current.  

How windy was it? windy enough that a seagull decided to land and grab a free ride on our bow, pausing to rest and entertain us for a few minutes with his nonchalant attitude.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

We're Cruising

Rhapsody returned to the water five months and a few days after haulout at the shipyard. Sporting a freshly painted exterior, new teak and holly floors, new carpeting and a handful of upgrades, she looks classy once again. There are SO many great shipyard photos to share, but not today. For now, let the adventures begin.

Port Angeles to Nanaimo
Conditions report - clear blue sky with zero wind and calm seas. How’s that for a perfect start to our daylong run north? Today’s journey followed a preplanned course through familiar territory: Depart Port Angeles, transit the easterly end of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca crossing the border into British Columbia, Canada and run up the east side of Vancouver Island. Heavy wind warnings had been posted for days, but the trip was pleasantly routine until we approached Dodd Narrows, the restricted passage where heavy current tends to limit traffic to periods of slack water.

A sturdy tugboat towing a string of several rafts of bundled logs headed today's lineup of northbound vessels waiting to navigate the narrows on the 4:00 pm slack. A dozen pleasure boats loitered with us at the southerly end of Dodd, while unseen others stacked up on the north end, all waiting for the big tug to pull its long tow through and clear the channel. A smaller tug assisted, guiding the rear of the log raft around the dog-leg bend in the narrows, but things did not go as planned. Oh no! The tow dragged, came apart, and several log bundles floated loose, scattering across the channel. Those two tugs powered back and forth like sheep dogs trying to herd an unruly flock. 

Boats at both ends of Dodd paused, then cautiously maneuvered around and through the mess, aware of the need to run through the passage or wait six hours for the next slack current. We dodged the two busy tugs, three drifting log bundles and a few other boats without incident. Later on a Coast Guard radio broadcast announced nine bundles loose in Dodd Narrows as a new hazard to navigation. Nine?! That must have been some log roundup!

Nanaimo is a happening place in the summer. Friday and Saturday nights featured live music on the esplanade, amplified throughout the harbor. On Saturday morning the Dragon Boat Races drew crowds of supporters and impromptu spectators to the city’s waterfront park. Throughout most days and well into the evenings a small ferry chugs back and forth across Newcastle Channel, delivering people to the Dinghy Dock Pub for burgers and a brew. Dockside chatter reports the best harbor entertainment comes from watching visiting boaters maneuver into their assigned slips in gusting 20-25 knot winds. No comment.