August - The Second Half
The summer has slowly slipped away as we moved north almost to the tip of Vancouver Island. The wilderness is profound and we were amazed at the solitude and beauty.
As we started north from Vancouver City, and were cruising around Keats Island, we heard a sickening thud. We had hit one of the dreaded "deadheads", a log that has become so waterlogged that it floats upright and is practically impossible to see, especially with the sun glittering on the water. After checking that the rudder was functioning, we immediately headed for a marina and arranged for a diver to inspect the hull for damage. Luckily, all the deadhead had done was knock some of the slime and algae off the keel. We were relieved.
Princess Louisa Inlet was our first major destination, called "The Holy Grail" by cruisers, and it was as advertised. You enter through a narrow, dogleg rapids that must be timed for slack, and you are met with mile high granite walls, dark, deep water and waterfalls everywhere, each with their own distinct personality. Some plummet as a narrow ribbon all the way to the bottom. Others spread out and hit rocks or trees and are nothing but spray by the time they reach the inlet. From one vantage point we counted 17 cascades. We stayed here two nights, one on a mooring buoy, the other at the small dock. It rained most of the two days but the clouds hanging low on the water and the trees covered with moss were beautiful.
The well-known Desolation Sound area was our next destination. We rounded Sarah Point and the view of the sound opened up and the Coastal Range mountains in the distance were magnificent. Once again, it was raining and the clouds were settling between the peaks in the distance. We are trying to figure out why this area is called "The Sunshine Coast". It is difficult to anchor here because the water is so deep, up to 1500 feet. Even the shoreline is often too deep so many folks drop the anchor the best they can then run a stern line to shore. In the pouring rain we were not anxious to try this so, after reading some anchoring suggestions in our trusty guidebook, we ended up tied to a log boom! Our only worry was that in the middle of the night some tugboat captain would shine a flashlight in our eyes and tell us he was taking the boom to a sawmill. It didn't happen and we spent a restful night, listening to the rain and watching the seals play between the logs in the morning. Real show-offs.
After the log boom we decided we deserved a marina so stayed at April Point, just off Discovery Passage. The marina is part of the Oak Harbor Marine Group, which has major guided fishing activity. The sportfishermen were bringing in their limit of salmon every day. This marina also had the largest boats we had seen yet, several over 100', with in-your-face names like "Aggressor", "Show Me The Money", and "Final Solution". Most were flying US flags…
We wandered north among the Discovery Islands, weather clearing and currents in our favor. Several of the channels needed to be timed for slack and with the Canadian Current Tables in hand, we managed to fly through them. At one stop on Dent Island we saw a couple of black bears snuffling around for food. One decided to climb a tree and I for one learned that if I ever needed to escape a bear I would never climb a tree. They are very, very fast!!!
We finally made it to Port Hardy where we were to meet a Nordhavn friend. He didn't arrive due to weather but we had a chance to clean "Hapgood", polish brightwork and change the oil in the generator. We also went fishing with a guide one morning (very early). Richard caught a 24-pound Chinook. It was a beauty and it filled our little freezer. I caught the first fish, the most fish and lost one big one (which probably would have been the biggest) but mine were Coho, which we had to throw back. Coho will be thrown back for another 3-5 years, depending on the recovery of the fishery. The Canadian government is thinking of having open hunting on seals because they eat too many salmon. Huh??
We finally caught up with our friend Russ on his Nordhavn 46, "Nelly". He had some wild tales of his trip up the Pacific so we drank gin and tonics, picked crab (caught in our crab ring an hour earlier) and went to bed way too late. We were at anchor, the stars were shining and the wind was calm. It doesn't get much better. We anchored again the next two nights as we explored the Broughton Islands. This area is more beautiful yet, if that is possible. The water is deep, mountains are snow-capped and the air is pristine. There are a few people carving out a place for themselves, either as fishermen or "resort" (I use that term lightly) owners. There was no other business evident. A one-room school serves the few children who arrive by boat two or three days a week, depending on the weather. The logging companies have left scars on the majority of the hillsides. They clear-cut and leave the rubble. The rubble, after several years of rains, will pile up and eventually scour away the thin layer of soil as it erodes to the sea, spoiling habitat and leaving trash in the inlets. Some of the hills have "Mohawk" haircuts, some have a "spar" tree standing when all other trees are gone, other areas show the remnants of the booming area that is now crumbling. The loggers must supply our insatiable demand for paper and building materials. I wish they could find a more enlightened way to care for the land.
As we headed south we "hid out" in the bays of Desolation Sound once more after a fierce southeaster blew up and nearly knocked us off the dock at Lund. We waited two days at anchor until the Strait of Georgia calmed down a bit, then headed for Nanaimo and the Gulf Islands. We were in familiar territory there and it was nice, but somehow the sense of adventure was waning. The marinas are busier and noisier, the prices are higher, and the people are a bit ruder. Ah well. We were in Sidney, BC for Labor Day and lunch with Brian Saunders, our PAE captain, friends of his, the Frisbies, who are a wealth of information about cruising in Mexico and Alaska, Brian's mother and sister. Lots of stories and we were happy to share with Brian "the rest of our story".
"Hapgood" is a wonderful home on the water; comfortable, dependable and so good-looking!! We turn heads wherever we go. We have become accustomed to camping Nordhavn style! We will leave "Hapgood" at Canoe Cove, Sidney BC, for the winter and, after reading accounts of others' voyages this summer, look forward to making the trip to Alaska next year.