Vancouver Island circumnavigation;episode 4: Bull Harbour bummer and Goletas Channel sweetness

Lowry Bay

Lowry Bay

day 11 day 12

IMG_2323.CR2These photos are all that I took in the whole 5 weeks. The dslr takes good images , but I am loath to lug it around in the kayak especially in the generally cold and wet conditions I had. That said, I used it for months and months in southern Chile a couple of years ago, so it must be a ‘mood’ thing.

The last exciting episode left us going to bed, anchored in Cascade Harbour on the NE aspect of Nigei Island. This is in an area of Earth that is pretty interesting and generally exciting for poking around in small boats. In past trips we have usually passed along Goletas Channel with fair expedition, anticipating the challenges of the Nahwitti Bar and Cape Scott.

Not this time though. Having approached from a different direction; from Capes Calvert and Caution, it became a destination. Who can resist the names? Nigei, the chief of the Nawhitti people who had a big village on Hope Island ( more of that later). Or Goletas Channel named after the vessels of ,I think, Malaspina or perhaps it was Quadra ( a Peruvian born and bred). Either way, Goletas just means schooner. One of the first times I traversed this channel I saw the schooner Pacific Swift emerge from the mist near Shadwell Passage as it merges into Goletas; ‘schooner channel’

As you sail northwest along Goletas with either a fair or headwind you are moving from the inner protected waters into the open, and the Pacific swell makes itself felt just at VanSittart Island.

I went ashore at Cascade Harbour to look for relics of settlement. my memories of previous reading were vague, but when I returned home I pulled out  a slim volume named ‘Coastal Villages’ by Liv Kennedy from my home bookshelf. Chapter 25, the last one, called ‘Cascade Harbour- Shushartie’ is what I had read.

Christian Cholberg, from Norway, ‘a self-taught genius at ship design and ship building’ according to Kennedy, settled in Cascade Harbour, a wilderness cove that is remote now, let alone in 1929, more or less, in the throes of the Depression, with his family. I don’t know if he was heroic, but he had a vision and plenty of energy, for sure.

So I went ashore and found some relics, from at least two epochs. I found old cast flywheels, from a mill perhaps, or an engine. Old bits of wooden boats. Cholberg built or rebuilt a few commercial fishboats right there on the beach, in the mist and wind and cold.

But also there was much more recent construction, maybe just old enough to be interesting. I have heard the opinion that 65 years is the minimum for some bush relic to morph from debris and garbage into interesting artifact. However here on the BC coast where the rain and the alder and the cedar move in and take over in  5 or 10 years, the romance also grows more quickly. These 3 ( or more) derelict plywood cabins were apparently inhabited for some time and homes were made here. Were they hippies or what? Is there a record anywhere?

Two summers ago I explored Kitkatla Inlet of Porcher Island and found several old plywood homesteads sprinkled around. Nobody there now.

Forty years ago I poked around the bays of Jervis Inlet with recently abandoned logging camps, just old enough to be really interesting.

So, when I met squatters Josh and Johanna back in Okisollo Channel, my first thought was that they would have had a lot more company with sympathetic world views 40 years ago.

I could have spent more time poking around in Cascade Harbour. I did not even walk the 1/4 mile out to the existing red-roofed recreational house facing the channel. Looks sort of resortish, but noone there this day. It was likely their mooring buoy I dragged around the bay.

In Kennedy’s book she had a photo of  a Canadian Fishing Company cannery in Cascade Harbour that ‘closed shortly after the turn of the century’. In the photo, so many trees had been cut that I really couldn’t recognise the place at all.

I hauled the anchor and headed out into a fresh day. Swell, a fresh and gusty NW wind and big whales in the channel along with a 3-4 knot current. Soon, close-hauled with a reef in the main I was ripping towards Goletas, easily breasting the current, tack on tack. How much fun was that! On one tack close enough to count the barnacles on Nigei Island I saw two open canoes, paddled by parents with toddlers ensconced amidships in each boat. They were skirting the rocks headed also for Goletas. A wave acknowledged and on I sped. I saw the flare of their fire later that night, where they had camped around the corner on Nigei across form my spectacular anchorage at Shushartie. Then,  another 2 days later, just at dawn as I tacked north along Goletas from Loquilalla Cove heading for Cape Scott, I suddenly saw them in the gloom paddling for Port Hardy. They must have roused those toddlers at 0500, well before light, to get packed and loaded to be on the water and paddling that early. They flashed their headlamp and waved as, again, I tacked close to the rocks and flew off and away heading into the swell smoothly at 7 knots. What an adventure they had. Will the kids remember? Not consciously, but it is all good brainwashing.

As I sailed into Goletas Channel on this day I saw another sail just ahead, and they continued on into Bull Harbour. It was the Sea Pilgrim from Seattle, a 40′ ish double-ender ketch, built in Japan in the 1960’s of yellow cedar strip planks on oak frames.Looked in good shape. I went aboard once I was anchored in Bull Harbour to get the VHF weather forecast as my handheld radio couldn’t receive at that location.

There was a new sign at the dock explaining that all of Hope Island was First Nations land and permission is required to land. There had been similar signs posted for some years, but anytime we went ashore we were greeted in a friendly way, so I went ashore. Within a few minutes a truck came down the road, stopped, the driver opened the window, and he informed me that I was trespassing. He wanted no discussion.

I turned around and returned to the boat. There was no discussion of fees or permission.

It left a bad feeling, especially thinking that he was watching all movements from his house at the head of the bay. In view of that I pulled anchor and left the bay. Too bad, because the walk across to Roller Bay is a pleasant one. He was perfectly within his rights, but still. Things change over the years, and there are still many familiar and new places to explore.

I heard subsequently that a few other boat crews have either been unceremoniously asked to leave or asked to pay from $5 to $20 per head for landing.

So in the late afternoon I was sailing under jib alone in Goletas Channel looking for a good anchorage. The forecast was not ideal for rounding Cape Scott the next day so I headed a little way SE. I headed in to have a closer look at the old pilings from the settlement at Shushartie. I decided to drop the anchor, then back in and tie astern to the pilings. This worked out very well; calm ,quiet and great views N and S along Goletas Channel.  I caught a nice little rockfish off the boat for my supper.

Overnight, rain started with some vigour, but little wind. Low cloud, fog really, also moved in. So I lazed around reading and drinking coffee, with the heater on intermittently. At about 1100 a SAR helicopter swooped very low and had a good look at me. I suppose they were involved in the search for Aquila, that I had seen a few days prior in Port McNeill, having trouble docking. At around noon the rain stopped and the fog thinned, so I cast off astern , pulled anchor and sailed quietly SE along Goletas. Actually I wanted to sail far enough towards Port Hardy to pick up a cell signal, as I’d been incommunicado for a few days. With only the handheld VHF aboard I was much more cut off from communications than I ever had been in the Southern Ocean or the Gulf of Alaska.

By the time I picked up a strong enough signal I was past God’s Pocket and within a few miles of Hardy Bay. Communications completed,  I hove to so I could prepare for the beat back up the channel. The breeze had grown to 20 to 25 knots NW so I put a reef in the main and partly furled the jib, donned foulies and boots. The current was flooding which was against me, but it made the sea smooth. Tack and tack back up the channel in exhilarating conditions , and the sky was clearing. I’d had a look into Loquilalla Cove, on Nigei Island as I sailed past earlier, so that was my objective. I saw a sail in the distance heading my way. Half an hour later as we closed, I could see that it was a large catamaran, and then saw that it was ‘Habitat’ owned by Ian McAllister of the Pacific Wild organisation in Shearwater. Also, Meredith and her co-workers from the film company were aboard. They were just finishing a 2 week voyage around Queen Charlotte Sound, on and off soundings to try to film some of the wildlife. Lots of waving and smiling, and we both sailed on. It is a small coast.

Conditions were fairly active and we were sailing at 7-8 knots hard on the wind, with little stress. The tillerpilot was handling things well. Nearing Loquilalla Cove though, the boat slewed into the wind out of control. Two problems: the little pin on the tiller in which the autopilot engages had sheared off. The end of the autopilot arm had then pushed across and dislodged the rudder blade hold down rope. The rudder blade popped up. Hmmmm.

I also have a ’tillertamer’ mounted so used that to get to the cove. Then a simple SS bolt replaced the broken pin and all was good.

By 1730 I was anchored under lee of the  the trees of Loquilalla Cove, in the calm while the wind blew outside.

A CG cutter went by heading south, towing a 45′ ketch called Aquila.

The Pacific Grace schooner motored by heading for Bull Harbour.

I made dinner, kayaked ashore and poked around, seeing plenty of wolf prints.

I slept.

anchored at Shushartie

anchored at Shushartie

anchored at Shushartie: view south down Goletas Channel

anchored at Shushartie: view south down Goletas Channel

anchored at Shushartie: view north

anchored at Shushartie: view north

anchored at Shushartie: tied back to an old pierhead

anchored at Shushartie: tied back to an old pierhead

Cascade Harbour; old wharf

Cascade Harbour; old wharf

Cascade Harbour :stem

Cascade Harbour :stem

IMG_2309.CR2

Cascade Harbour: stem and flywheels

Cascade Harbour: stem and flywheels

Cascade Harbour deadwood

Cascade Harbour deadwood

at Cascade Harbour

at Cascade Harbour

at Cascade Harbour

at Cascade Harbour

IMG_2304

Cascade Harbour

Cascade Harbour

from Cascade Harbour

from Cascade Harbour

Fury Cove evening

Fury Cove evening

Fury Cove evening

Fury Cove evening

Fury Cove evening

Fury Cove evening

Fury Cove evening

Fury Cove evening

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Yorke Islsnd anchorage: kelp and boulders

Yorke Islsnd anchorage: kelp and boulders

Yorke Island

Yorke Island

Yorke Island

Yorke Island

Yorke Island: the view over Johnstone Strait

Yorke Island: the view over Johnstone Strait

Yorke Island

Yorke Island

Yorke Island

Yorke Island

Yorke Island

Yorke Island

Yorke Island gun emplacement: camouflage , rocks on concrete

Yorke Island gun emplacement: camouflage , rocks on concrete

Fly 2

Vancouver Island circumnavigation 2015 Episode 3

day 7 day 8 day 9day 10A couple of things:

there are only about 6 photos for the whole summer trip. In July, while Glenn and I were paddling up the Orford River in Bute Inlet I dropped my little camera into the torrent and it was swept away forever, despite its own little lifejacket. I didn’t want to buy a replacement at the last moment before leaving on this trip so I decided to do a radical experiment and NOT take a weatherproof camera. Probably was a bad idea, and I missed it.

The other thing is the whole singlehanded thing; I mostly go alone because Barb has things that she really wants to do that cannot be done on a boat, any boat. I could coordinate with more friends and family, but every rendezvous seems to take a few days and quite a bit of dedicated sailing and motoring to get there and return at the end of the session. Makes it quite a bit more difficult to sail with the wind. Which is the point, for me.

Back to Blunden Harbour: I decided to take the next day and paddle the kayak all the way to the end of the inlets and lagoons. That took a few hours. It took me inland towards the huge area draining into the 3 big inlets inside Nakwakto Rapids: Mereworth, Belize , and Seymour. I also got to glimpse the vast areas of logging , a process that has been going on for generations in that part of the coast.

As I began my paddle I stopped to chat with Mike and Lindsay on Sans Souci , an old Brandlmayr sloop with no engine, from Quadra Island. They were having a leisurely cruise of QC Strait, following the wind.

Returning to tri in late afternoon I found the wind whistling at 20 knots in the anchorage and some more boats anchored nearby. I plucked the hook and re-anchored just outside the main anchorage in the lee of the Augustine Islands, quiet and calm.

Next day I waited a while for the wind, but eventually at 0930 motored out of Blunden and a few miles up the coast to near Wallace Island, where a little breeze developed. I was able to spend the rest of the day tacking into light NW wind towards Cp Caution. I had hoped to land on the beach at Burnett Bay ( after spending only a day last year there on a kayak trip) but the swell was over 2 metres, so I knew landing on the beach was going to be a bit of a mess. Passed on that, and sailed on. I rounded Cp Caution in light breeze but eventually coasted into Jones Cove as the sun set. This is just at the south entrance to Smith Sound. It is a little gloomy deep in the cove so I anchored nearer the entrance to catch the last of the sunset.

The morning of Aug 16th was calm ,sunny and surprisingly warm.  I hung out, reading, drinking coffee and doing a few little repairs. Such as jury rigging the solar panel input plug. The 100 W panel certainly supplies more electrical power than I need. The only demands are lights at night and the autopilot. The autopilot is a Raytheon ST1000 and it works very well. I have a spare.I only hand steer in exciting conditions with good sized seas.

When the inflow wind arose around noon I headed out across Smith Sound wending amongst the reefs and rocks in clear weather, bound for Fury Cove. As I rounded Paddle Rock into Rivers Inlet, I could bear off and set the spinnaker. Smooth seas with 10 – 15 k fair wind took me at 8-10 knots to the entry to Fury. Nice!

It took me 4 trials to get the hook well set in Fury Cove in about 55′. Then I went for a long paddle out along the shores of Fitzhugh Sound.

The following day August 17th , was my 60th birthday. It was a great day of sailing. Here is where I went on that day: I sailed out of Fury in a light westerly and out across Fitzhugh towards Cp Calvert. I dodged into Grief Bay, and was surprised to see a cruising boat anchored there. I had to start the engine in the calm shelter to get through the patches of kelp and through to the west side of Calvert Is. Shut down the engine and tacked north up the west coast towards Chikchik Bay. Gary Purchase had recommended checking this place out, but when I arrived it offered little protection, a big swell was rolling in, and I could not really envision spending that night there.

So, I cracked off and zipped back down to Cp Calvert, thinking that the NW breeze would be good in Fitzhugh. Alas, it was glassy calm ahead. Before I ran into the millpond I bore off back in the direction of Cp Caution. The breeze strengthened to 15 to18 k and I passed a big troller also heading south. Where to go, with the world as my oyster?? Still mid afternoon with a fair breeze and clear skies , so I jibed around onto starboard tack and took off, bound for Nigei Island and the Goletas Channel area. I stayed high to keep boat speed up in the 9-10 knot range and then jibed down the NE side of Hope Island crossing Shadwell Passage and sailed right into Cascade Harbour on the NE corner of Nigei Island. The seas steepened and as I surfed down the odd one the late afternoon sun formed rainbows in the lee bow spray. The ‘harbour’ is small and the N swell rolls in almost to the inner reaches. I picked up a big mooring buoy with good 1 1/2″ polysteel rope attached. I backed down on it with all 6 horses and WTF!! I dragged it about 200 m around the bay. Weird. I anchored, had dinner and went to bed. Happy birthday. Got the cake and ate it too.

What a great sailing day! This is absolutely awesome; sailing this boat in this area. A taste of more to come.

I had seen lots of whale blows and big flocks of shearwaters and rhino auklets this day. The history of Cascade Harbour is interesting, for next episode.

A Circumnavigation of Vancouver Island: episode 2

At 0700 on August 11,2015 the boat cabin was flooded with bright sunshine coming all the way from the east beyond Nodales Channel. It is a very small cabin so there’s not enough room for all that light and a sleeping body, so it was coffee time. Hurriedly, because the ebb was already in it’s waning stages and there was no wind. I raised the anchor and putted out into the west flowing river of Current Passage. The current gave me an extra 3 knots so Hardwicke Ledge approached quickly. Just past the ledge I met ‘Longreach’ with Brad and Janet aboard, so we drifted around for a few minutes and had a gam. They were just returning from a trip upcoast. Brad called the Strait a ‘river’ as the flood current was negligible while the ebb is always pretty strong. A lot of river water coming down the inlets from the Coast Range even in a dry summer.

Continuing on a few miles to Yorke Island I anchored among the big bottom boulders and went ashore to have a look. The trees have grown up and largely covered the concrete structures of the huge gun emplacements built when the threat of Japanese invasion seemed real and frightening. It is hard for me to imagine,  who has never lived through that kind of thing. Submarines and  ships steaming down Johnstone Strait to bomb Vancouver. Not so far-fetched I guess.

It was still mid-morning when I returned to the boat and I motored a mile or two north of Yorke Island past Fanny Island. There is a weather station on Fanny Island that often records 30 or 40 knots in fine NW weather in the summer. Not this day though, but I was encouraged to see a few catspaws developing. I made sail and shut down the motor. The rest of the day was spent in a very pleasant fashion tacking west along Johnstone Strait in a light westerly headwind that allowed steady and satisfying progress; dodging tugs and ships and fishboats and not a few kayak groups. An excellent way to travel, on smooth water, a bit of favorable current, and wind that varied from 5 knots to nearly 20 off Telegraph Cove. By 1600 I was anchored in the Pearse Islands of Cormorant Channel Marine Park.

On the first day’s sail from Comox with a little fresh and salt water flying around the cockpit, a small dollop of seawater had landed on the cable plug of the cellphone, which was being used as a chartplotter. The consequences, an inabilty to charge, became evident about 12 hours later. Peter texted me to ask if I was near Telegraph Cove , because he was on a driving trip with his charge, Danny. With the remaining battery power I was able to ask him to bring another cable and we would meet in Telegraph Cove. Lucky for me. I had decided NOT TO BRING PAPER CHARTS, and just use the cellphone and a hiking Garmin gps with chart software.

An interesting and perhaps stupid exercise. The biggest problem was how difficult it is to plan a passage on the 2 x 3.5″ screen of the cellphone or the even smaller Garmin screen. Later in the journey the Garmin cable also started failing, but a drying session in front of the heater seems to have fixed that. Papercharts are coming along on the next trip, rather than leaving them neatly stowed in the closet at home. I have also ordered the cheapest 4″ chartplotter I could find, which has weatherproof connections.

I went paddling in the kayak on the morning of August 12th keeping close to land as the fog was thick. I could hear whales breathing close at hand. The fog lifted a bit so I returned to Fly and headed to Telegraph Cove to meet Peter and Danny. A coffee and a short boat ride later and they headed north by road and I by sea. I stopped briefly at Alert Bay but it seemed that my contacts there were away, so I set off in the late afternoon with a nice NW breeze to tack to Port McNeill, where I anchored.

Next morning I met Peter and Danny for more coffee. A few groceries. And a bit of gasoline for the outboard. As I was waiting to get fuel a 45′ ish ketch named Aquila was being brought in to fuel up. The skipper, an older (than me) singlehander, was having a very hard time getting the boat alongside, with little wind and no current. I was a bit puzzled by the situation but lent a hand to get the boat secured. Less than a week later this man and his boat issued a Mayday on the VHF and were rescued and towed back in from QC Sound to Port Hardy.Possibly a stroke and mechanical difficulties. I never did learn the whole story.

I finally left Port McNeill around 1300 hrs and sailed in adverse current and light headwind north to Pulteney Pt. The wind filled in from the NW as I rounded the point and I was able to close reach across Queen Charlotte Strait in a fresh breeze. The seas were at first very lumpy and we slammed and banged inefficiently, but as they smoothed out we sped up to 8 or 9 knots so we sailed into Blunden Harbour by 1700. The breeze was perfect to tack right through the narrow entrance dodging kelp and reefs, and anchor right up at the north end. Greg and Jean of ‘Grasal’ called on the radio and I went over for dinner. It had been about 8 or 10 years since we last met and we had both sailed all over the Pacific in the interim.

Thus ended the 6Day 3 day 4day 5 day 6 th day of the trip,August 13th.