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

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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

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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