Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Way Home

Cruising the San Juan's
The Beautiful San Juan Islands
We departed Montague Harbour in the Gulf Islands on August 9th heading southward down Trincomali Channel and Plumper Sound passing familiar stops like the adorable Hope Bay Public Wharf on North Pender Island and Breezy Bay, another favorite on Saturna Island, the site of beautiful Saturna Island Winery & Bistro.  After passing through the Gulf Islands, we headed across “The Big Pond,” the waters dividing Canada and the U.S. known as Boundary Pass and entered our beloved San Juan Islands.  It was a beautiful sunny day with flat, calm seas, an enjoyable cruise through the San Juan’s and across Rosario Strait to Anacortes, Washington where we cleared customs.  
Approaching Anacortes
We walked into town and enjoyed the Anacortes Arts Festival, five blocks of booths lining both sides of the street displaying unique handcrafted arts for sale along with local entertainment, food, and a beer garden. 
Leonard had worn his Metlakatla shirt which he had purchased in Alaska; and as we passed a lady in the crowd, she lit up with excitement and asked us if we were from Metlakatla.  We had visited the town on our recent trip we told her, and had enjoyed the Native village and dance performance.  She said she lived in Ketchikan and we chatted some more.  
At Anacortes Arts Festival
I mentioned that I had kept a blog about our travels and had looked up the history regarding Metlakatla B.C. and Metlakatla Alaska.  She smiled and asked me if I had heard of the book entitled “Challenge the Wilderness.”  I told her no and she pulled the book from her bag and proceeded to tell us that it was written by her father, George Tomlinson, who had recently passed away. 
His book is about his life as a young boy with his father, Robert Tomlinson, who served as a medical missionary with the Tsimshian Natives to assist the famed Father Duncan who established both Metlakatla B.C. and Metlakatla Alaska.  It was such a special encounter to meet Susan Tomlinson Durbin, daughter of the author.  She ended up giving us the book which is full of first-hand accounts of adventures in the wilderness, experiences of both her father and grandfather with historic photos.  What a special gift!  We also had the pleasure of meeting our friends, Pam and Bruce, for dinner that evening at their lovely home on Similk Bay, located between La Conner and Anacortes.  We had a nice visit and learned more about their recent travels.  The following morning we left for Seattle, Leonard departed with the boat and I drove the car which we had left in Anacortes over the season.  From Anacortes to Mt. Vernon I encountered a backup due to road construction but eventually made it to the freeway for the two-hour drive to Seattle.  In the meantime, Leonard had his own challenges departing through the Swinomish Slough.  This narrow, twisting channel is shallow and dredged only periodically.  
Elliott Bay Marina, Seattle
Got d’ Fever was moving with the current at 9.4 knots and Leonard noted that the depth coincidentally showed 9.4 feet.  As he neared the south end of the Slough where logs are stored, a tug was putting together a log boom so Leonard had to wait - an uncomfortable situation while in current and shallow depths with nowhere to go!   Fortunately he didn’t have to wait long and the tug captain motioned Leonard to come through.  Now in Skagit Bay, Leonard continued down Saratoga Passage between Camano Is. and Whidbey Island, then through Possession Sound and into Puget Sound arriving in Seattle at 6pm, a nine-hour trip for Got d’ Fever.  
Mr. Heron Welcomes us Home
This season’s excursion had been rich with experiences; we thoroughly enjoyed the people and small boardwalk villages of Southeast Alaska, the mountains and glaciers, and the awe inspiring scenery and power of the Gulf of Alaska.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

A Hoot at Montague

Montague Harbour Marina, Galiano Island
Dodd Narrows, our last set of rapids, took us from Nanaimo on Vancouver Island out through the Gulf Islands, a popular destination within easy reach for Washington State boaters.  We made an overnight stop at Montague Harbour on Galiano Island, a long-standing favorite of ours.  The huge harbour can hold dozens of boats and the small marina offers a coffee shop with baked goods, a nice restaurant, and a gift shop.  
Midden Beach at Montague Harbour on Galiano Island
In addition to the marina and adjacent public wharf, a marine park and dock is located on the north end of the harbour with nice camp sites and trails that lead to midden beaches.  
Nice Camp Sites at Montague Marine Park
Java enjoyed her dinghy ride and walk on the crusted shell beach once used by Native people over thousands of years. 
Montague Harbour
A fun outing not to be missed is a ride on the Hummingbird Bus to the Hummingbird Pub located inland. 
Hummingbird Bus Driver
The bus driver is quite a character and is very entertaining.  He distributes maracas and tambourines for riders to play while singing along with classic songs heard over the loudspeaker.  
The Bus Driver's One-Man Show
While attentively driving the bus, he plays the drums and cymbals, stopping now and then to point out interesting sights along the way.  The bus ride is a real hoot and was a fun culmination to our trip north.
Montague Harbor on Galiano Island in the Gulf Islands

Friday, August 7, 2015

Java’s Island Time

Boyle Point Lighthouse
Nanaimo Housing Developments, Strait of Georgia
Waters through Baynes Sound departing Comox were glassy smooth but short-lived.  As we passed Boyle Point Lighthouse, the seas became choppy and continued to build through the Strait of Georgia with 15-20 knot winds kicking up 4-5 foot seas but Got d’ Fever took it all in stride.  As we neared Nanaimo, numerous housing developments could be seen along the hillsides overlooking the Strait of Georgia; the city seemed like a metropolis after having spent several months in Alaska - traffic, people, and multiple shopping options, wow!  
Nanaimo Shopping and Sidewalk Cafes
We arrived in Nanaimo Harbour at 6:30pm and set the hook near Newcastle Island.  Java seemed to know where she was and didn't like the fact she would have to wait until morning to go hiking on her favorite island.  
Java Happily at Play
The wide open fields along the Island’s shoreline were toasted brown from the summer heat but Java didn’t care; she loved running through the fields chasing after her Frisbee without regard for her low ground clearance.  After play time, Java rested in the shade of the large oak trees while Leonard and I enjoyed a Root Beer float purchased from the concession stand.  
Cut Pulp Stones, Newcastle Island
As we walked back to our dinghy, we stopped to see the quarry site once active on the Island.  From 1923-1932, the McDonald CutStone Co. established a pulp stone operation on the Island.  Pulp stones were cut from the quarry and shipped across North America to be used in paper mills as grinders to reduce logs to wood fiber.  
Pulp Stone Quarry, Newcastle Island
These pulp stones or rock wheels revolved more than 200 times per minute and served as important tools for the pulp and paper industry of the day.  
Pulp Stone Cutter, Newcastle Island
The pulp stones on Newcastle Island were of high quality.  To cut a pulp stone, a large cylindrical cutter rotated for three hours to reach the appropriate depth, a small blast of gunpowder then broke the stone loose.  The stone was lifted out with a derrick and then smoothed on a lathe in preparation for shipment.

City Lights of Nanaimo

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Colonies

Comox Harbour Authority Docks
We departed Discovery Harbour docks in Campbell River at 9am and had a slight push from the current.  The morning fog soon dissipated revealing the flat, calm seas in the Strait of Georgia.  As we got closer to Comox on Vancouver Island, the direction of the current shifted, slowing our speed to 7.4 knots.  The seas remained calm and we easily passed over the Comox bar, arriving at the Harbour Authority Docks around 2pm and settled into our slip.  
Comox on Vancouver Island
Comox is a cute retirement town with lots of pretty flowers and shrubs that line the streets.  Older folks are often seen cruising down the sidewalks in their “hover-rounds.”  

The Shoprider
It seems some of these folks have moved up to the modern mode of transportation, the “Shoprider,” an enclosed one-seat, motorized job with four wheels which looks like a miniature car, very cute.  After the morning rain shower passed, we walked into town, stopping at the local museum which also serves as an art gallery.  Beautiful watercolor paintings by local artists were on display and available for purchase.  The museum section, although small, is a nice resource for local and Provincial history, including notable people from the past who helped shape British Columbia.  These names are familiar to boaters, names like Douglas and Seymour which have been used to designate islands and various waterways.  James Douglas, born in 1803, is often called the Father of British Columbia.  After he completed his schooling in Scotland, he moved to Canada at the age of sixteen.  

Sir James Douglas
James apprenticed with the Northwest Co. which eventually merged with the Hudson’s Bay Company.  He was later stationed at Fort Vancouver, Washington where he became the HBC Chief Factor in 1839.  When it became apparent that everything below the 49th parallel would soon become American territory, he moved to Vancouver Island to relocate the Hudson Bay Co. Fort and later established the Capital of Fort Victoria.  From 1851 to 1864 James Douglas served as Governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island and in 1858 he also became the first Governor of the Colony of British Columbia.  The two colonies would later merge as a Province.  While in office Douglas developed his vision of a great highway of commerce down the centre of the mainland colony; he achieved this project in little more than two years.  A wagon road eighteen feet wide and 400 miles long connected the Cariboo to the coastal settlements.  Today, his name is recognized on nautical charts and land features including Douglas Channel, James Island, James Bay, and Douglas Peak to mention a few.  
Frederick Seymour
Another recognizable name is Frederick Seymour, born 1820, as in Seymour Narrows, Frederick Sound, and Mount Seymour among other sites named in his honor.  Frederick Seymour became the second Governor of the Colony of British Columbia in 1864 and continued building the wagon trails to the Cariboo and also helped stop a First Nation disturbance at Bute Inlet.  Seymour did not at first support combining the Colony of Vancouver Island and the Colony of British Columbia but eventually relented and the two colonies became one in 1866.  When Canada became a confederation in 1867, there was a strong desire for the B.C. colony to join as a Provence.  Seymour had managed to improve the economy and infrastructure of the colony, culminating with the construction of a graving dock (dry dock) at Esquimalt Harbour near Victoria.  Towards the end of his term, Seymour made a journey to Nass River located off of Portland Inlet to mediate a dispute between First Nations tribes.  On the return trip, he fell ill with dysentery and died at Bella Coola.  
Stakes from Fish Traps seen along Comox Bay
The Museum also includes information about the thousands of stakes seen on the mudflats all along Comox Bay.  The pilings or stakes are remnants of ancient fish traps of the K’omoks people who lived in the area long before the arrival of the Europeans.  Many of these traps were in the shape of a heart or chevron and could function independently or as part of a larger interconnected system.  
Designs and Fish Trap Structures
The complexity of these systems must have required skilled experts to design, build, and maintain the traps and other skilled workers to harvest and manage resources.  The magnitude of the fish harvest suggests that the Native population in the area was much larger than previously thought.  Leonard still prefers his mode of fishing - hold out some money and go troll along the docks.  
Leonard's Idea of Fishing
To our delight, we found a commercial fishing boat tied-up at Comox offering fresh fish for sale, including salmon, tuna, and smoked sockeye.  The Comox fishing boat is one of a few in B.C. where you can buy fresh fish directly off a boat licensed to sell to the general public.  Leonard’s early morning fishing trip in the rain proved successful, bringing home four nice salmon steaks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Rapids - the Doorways

Historic Minstrel Island Resort, a once popular venue
We departed Lagoon Cove by 11am via the narrow, short canal called “The Blow Hole” which runs between Minstrel Island and E. Cracroft Island, its name is taken from the strong westerly winds that sometimes blow through the opening.  Fortunately we had light winds and passed by the once famous Minstrel Island Resort, now vacant and abandoned except for the dock used by owners of the property.  The resort and island is said to have been named after the traveling minstrel shows that came to entertain when Union Steamships made regular stops here back in the early 1900’s.  
Whale seen in shallow Chatham Channel
Once through “the blow hole” we turned southeast down Chatham Channel, running against a 3-4 knot current which was strongest at the channel’s narrowest point.  To our surprise we saw two whales passing through the channel which has depths of only 30-40 feet of water, not much space for these large creatures of the sea.  After rounding the south end of E. Cracroft Island, we turned down Havannah Channel where the winds picked up to 12 knots with 2-3 foot chop and continued to increase once we reached Johnston Strait having turned eastward once again.  Johnston Strait, the long, wide body of water running between Vancouver Island and the Broughton Island Group was kicking up choppy 4-5 foot seas created by current and 15 knot southwesterly winds.  

Sunderland Channel
For better protection from the wind, we entered Sunderland Channel and ran along the northern shore of Hardwicke Island, arriving at the northeast end of Wellbore Channel and anchored in a small cove to await favorable conditions for transiting “Whirlpool Rapids.”  After waiting for almost two hours, we pulled up anchor and headed through the rapids in Wellbore Channel which was moving at 4 knots creating small whirlpools.  
Entrance to Whirlpool Rapids in Wellbore Channel
Running with the current, our total speed averaged 9.5 knots having reached 12 knots at one point.  Once through Whirlpool Rapids we motored along the northeastern shore of W. Thurlow Island approaching the next set of rapids called Greene Point Rapids.  As we rounded W. Thurlow Island heading south, we entered Greene Point Rapids which were relatively benign, pushing us along with a combined speed of between 9 and 10 knots.  Continuing around W. Thurlow Island to the south side, we stopped at Blind Channel Marina for the night.  
Blind Channel Resort on W. Thurlow Island
Space at this popular marina in the Broughton’s was full, but we had called ahead and were told we could moor at the seaplane dock overnight since we would be leaving in the morning.  Blind Channel Resort & Marina is best known for their excellent dinners served in the nice restaurant facilities, a treat when boating in remote areas.  
Blind Channel Resort, a popular stop in the Broughton's
The small grocery store and gift shop is also appreciated by boaters who visit this family run marina and resort.  Our second day of running the rapids began with our 9:40am departure from Blind Channel Marina via Mayne Passage connecting up once again with Johnston Strait.  The winds were blowing 17 knots with typical 4-5 foot sea chop in the Strait and we were bucking a 2-3 knot current.  
Chatham Point Lighthouse
By 11am we rounded Chatham Point Lighthouse entering Discovery Passage where the winds subsided to 6-10 knots with 1-2 foot chop, but we had yet to transit Seymour Narrows.  The two-mile long Seymour Narrows often has strong current depending on the season and the time of day; it’s safest to transit the Narrows within a half hour of slack water.  It was noon and we were nearing Seymour Narrows, too early to safely transit so we anchored in Elk Bay on the Vancouver Island side of Discovery Passage to await better conditions.  It certainly wouldn’t be safe to attempt running against a 9.9 knot current with minimal power and steerage!  After waiting over an hour, we left our anchorage and headed towards the Narrows with a tug and barge in front of us.  The 2-3 knot current moving through Seymour Narrows reduced our speed to between 5.2 knots and 6.3 knots as we made our way through the churning water.  
Campbell River, Home away from Home
We arrived at the town of Campbell River about an hour after transiting the Narrows and tied-up at the Discovery Harbour docks; it seemed like we were almost home and like so many towns we have come to know, Campbell River seemed like a home away from home.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Peaceful Lagoon Cove

Knight Inlet
Lagoon Cove, today's stop is most likely our favorite marina in the Broughton Island Group.  With glassy, calm seas, and fields of blue seen through the broken cloud layer, we departed Echo Bay heading southwest down Cramer and Retreat Passages, then southeast through Spring Passage which eventually connects up with Knight Inlet.  

Lagoon Cove Marina on East Cracroft Is.
We arrived at Lagoon Cove around 3pm with plenty of time to prepare a hearty salad for the 5pm Happy Hour.  It was nice to see Jean again who has been caring for the marina after her husband’s passing of two years ago.  

Lagoon Cove Marina
The cute “exercise stations,” horse-shoe pits, and family-style campfire site created by her husband Bill are still favorites among the guests at Lagoon Cove; and the lawns, gardens, and trails remain in good repair.  

Happy Hour at Lagoon Cove
The newly hired employees have continued Bill’s tradition of catching prawns for guests attending the Happy Hour which is always such a delicious treat.  
Campfire Gathering Spot, Lagoon Cove
In the
 evening a story teller shared many of Bill’s humorous jokes and funny tales which have been a source of entertainment over the years.  The “exercise stations” on the grounds are a reminder of his humorous nature; the old rotary push-lawn mower station for example and the wood chopping station among other fun chores in which guests can participate.  I think what I like most about Lagoon Cove is the peaceful, quiet setting and pretty location coupled with the friendly, casual atmosphere.  
Trails at Lagoon Cove

Pretty Setting at Lagoon Cove
Lagoon Cove Marina is still currently for sale and we hope whoever buys the property will maintain its charming character while adding new attractions and services.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Party Time at Echo Bay


A Big Tree in the Fog Shrouded Waters
We left Blunden Harbour at 8:43am in thick fog and flat, calm seas.  Visibility was poor with less than a quarter mile so we ran the radar, watching intently for other boat traffic.  I was at the helm and noticed a small blip on the screen dead-ahead, I watched to see if it would disappear and reappear, typically indicating a large ocean wave often picked up by radar.  The blip remained steady so I surmised it must be a small boat coming towards us.  As we got closer, a huge tree with its root-ball still attached came into view; birds were riding along on one end and a seal was lounging near the other end unaware of our approach.  Fortunately for us, the tree was so big that it had been detected by radar.  From Queen Charlotte Strait we turned east into Fife Sound where the fog began to dissipate among the Broughton Islands.  

Some Doggie Contestants
We arrived at Echo Bay Marina on Gilford Island at 1:30pm in time for the Saturday doggie races.  A course was set up on the dock with tempting doggie treats stuck between the boards.  Whichever dog had the fastest time from start to finish was declared the winner.  

Java Eating Every Bone along the Dock
Leonard released Java from her leash at the start line and I called Java to hurry to the finish line.  Like all good Dachshunds she had to stop and eat every last morsel of the bone treats placed along the way as did many of the other dogs.  For Java it was all about the food not about the timed event, she came in dead last but had lots of fun doing so.  
Eating the Last Bone, almost to the Finish Line
She’s been looking for doggie bones on the dock ever since.  After the races we paddled around the bay in our kayaks and discovered a new resort for kayakers with cute cabins located a short distance northeast of Echo Bay Marina.  It looks like a fun place that offers guided kayak tours.  On our way back to the marina, we scoured the granite cliffs along the shore looking for the old Native pictographs reported to be in the area.  We finally found them on the cliffs directly behind some cabins on the east side of Echo Bay.  
Pieces of a Native Pictograph Seen at Echo Bay
Although now barely visible, one can still make out pieces of a once larger pictograph colored with red ochre, the Native’s version of graffiti?  By now it was getting late and time to head back to the boat to prepare a side dish for the pig roast potluck dinner.  
Pierre's Pig Roast, Echo Bay Marina
A whole pig is roasted in the marina’s large commercial size barbeque, then sliced and served to guests who have paid for this special event.  
Family-style Dining at Echo Bay Marina
Dining is family style and each table is called up one at a time in order to manage the number of people attending this popular feast.  It's also a nice opportunity to meet other boaters and share experiences.  
Echo Bay Marina
We sat next to a couple from Arizona and another couple from Nanaimo who were interested in learning more about our trip to Mexico.  As always, everyone had something interesting to share.  
Cozy Fire Pit and Hot Tub at Echo Bay Marina
Pierre’s Echo Bay Marina is a fun destination with numerous activities scheduled throughout the boating season with different theme based main-dish dinners and games.  
Pierre's Echo Bay Lodge & Marina
A fairly recent addition is the outdoor hot tub and fire pit overlooking the marina.  Pierre and wife Tove continue to work hard making sure everyone has a good time.