Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Toba Wildreness and Inlet

It's 33 miles from Lund to Toba Wilderness. Scenery along the way is beautiful, and it was sunny and warm (high 70s), a welcome relief to Sue and Bob escaping from 100+ temps in Houston with high humidity. 

As soon as we tied up at the remote marina (no electricity, restaurants or town), Sue and Bob took off in the dinghy to drop a crab pot and explore.

When they returned, we all hiked up to the waterfall. 

Bob S took off in the dinghy by himself and came back with a small blue ling, just enough to make good fish tacos for lunch one day.

Happy hour followed by crab dinner makes any evening exceptional.


We crossed the Strait of Georgia and arrived at Lund early as the marina doesn't accept reservations, the wind was forecast to rise to 30 knots in the afternoon, and that's where sister Sue and brother-in-law Bob were scheduled to arrive at 3:30pm. But an early morning text from Sue said the Houston airport was closed due to thunderstorms and they'd keep us posted. The pub at the Lund Hotel adjacent to the marina is an amusing place.

Long story short, the Houston airport re-opened too late for them to make their Vancouver connection to Powell River, but they got another flight followed by a taxi ride to Lund and arrived at 6:00pm. 

7:30 dinner reservations at the waterfront Boardwalk Restaurant made for a great evening. The 30-knot winds materialized and kept boats rocking much of the night, with so many boats coming out of anchorages to get out of the wind that they were rafted 3-deep in the marina. 

Breakfast at "Nancy's Bakery" was exceptional as always, and we took off for Toba Wilderness.

Lund was a good start to our time together.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Campbell River

So we pulled the anchor, heavily laden with mud, and left the Octopus Islands, passing a kayak along the way with a dog who appears to enjoy kayaking with his owner.

It was sunny with light wind and strong opposing current coming into Campbell River, dropping our speed to 4.2 mph.

Not many photos for the next 2 1/2 days. Campbell River is a nice town and good stop, even for a future vacation which could include whale watching and fishing charter trips, and a huge selection of waterfront restaurants with nice views.

But we have relatives coming aboard, Cathryn's sister Susan and her husband Bob flying up from Texas, so we're in Campbell River for cleaning and provisioning. No photos of boat washing, laundry, grocery shopping, the chandlery or hardware store. We did stop at a "fresh seafood daily" float and pick up 4 Dungeness crabs.

And the full moon rose,

and we had beautiful sunsets.

We're headed to the east side of the Strait of Georgia to connect with Susan and Bob, then play for the week together in Desolation Sound.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Octopus Islands

This is our fourth trip to the lovely Octopus Islands Marine Park. For the first time on this trip, it was too hot to sit in the cockpit Sunday afternoon, so we climbed up to the shade of the flybridge where a cool breeze blows with all windows open. We were mesmerized by warm sunny weather, a great anchorage, and interesting exploring by kayaks, so unexpectedly stayed 3 nights.

For the fourth time (first with Greg and Terry on "Gold Rush", then with buddy boaters Aaron and Julie on "Eight Bells", then by ourselves last summer and now), we kayaked over to the little cabin on a private island referred to as the Cruiser's Cabin or Driftwood Museum, depending who you talk to. Cruisers create art and install it in the open-air cabin using mostly natural materials. Here's a tribute to the Octopus Islands!

We left a "Next To Me" installation last year, but didn't find it this year. And here's this year's "Phoenix" installation, made from driftwood collected on Blake Island near home and using a wood-burning tool borrowed from brother-in-law David. A simple piece compared to many here. 

We found the art from friends on "Gold Rush" and "Eight Bells".

So we relaxed, explored, read books, kayaked, and did a few boat chores. 

And watched the full moon rise.

And eventually decided we had to move on, so did.

In Search of Summer

We've had spectacularly sunny, warm days, but rarely more than 2 per week, sometimes fewer. The rest of the time it's been foggy (early mornings), or cloudy, rainy, misty or partly sunny. We began to feel we might "miss out on Summer" this year, so headed south to territory that's almost always sunny in August.

At 6:30 a.m. Sunday along with 3 other boats with whom we spent a delightful evening last night over happy hour and pizza at Port Harvey, we headed into Johnstone Strait. The forecast called for 20-30 knot winds, but other sources suggested more benign conditions. There was high fog and a "feel" of weather to come. We had 4 alternate routes and destinations planned for the day, depending what we found. It started off with low-hanging fog and calm-ish wind and water. 

Then wind and seas built. 

Eventually we had 29-knot winds at Fanny Island with 4-foot, short period waves, but that only lasted 1.5 hours before we turned the corner into Race Passage and conditions calmed and cleared. And, by the way, Phoenix handled the wind and waves like a champ!

And then: Summer! So we slowed to time our arrival at the Okisollo Rapids at a manageable time, and 62 miles later dropped the anchor at a favorite place in Waiatt Bay, Octopus Islands. 

The crew on Phoenix is happy and well.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Port Harvey

We finally left the anchorage at Viner Sound to move to Port Harvey, a rustic marina in The Broughtons that suffered a fire in its' kitchen/restaurant last winter and a sinking of the barge on which the facility sat. So sad! We met owners George and Gail when we stopped here in 2014, and heard they were scrabbling to re-build. Lots of cruisers overnight there to support their efforts even though facilities are currently limited.

Six boats were tied up, sans amenities other than a dock and WiFi (wow!). George and Gail organize dockside Happy Hour and pizza every night. We met the most interesting group of folks we've enjoyed in a while, including George and Gail's 6-year-old grand-daughter Signe. She and Cathryn latched onto each other and spent half the evening talking.

Red is the favorite color at Port Harvey, and shoes have become an interesting collectible item. 

It was an enjoyable stop. 

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Grand Slam at Viner Sound anchorage

We wondered when we'd see sunshine, more wild bears, or catch fish. Everyone we talk to, everywhere, complains of lousy fishing this year, even friend Greg who used to be a Fishing Guide in Alaska and ALWAYS catches fish. He said he's gotten lots of crab and prawns, but no salmon as of two weeks ago in Ketchikan. Folks catch halibut, but we have lightweight salmon rods with small test line, not suitable for halibut. Most of the blame, we're told, goes to La NiƱa. 

So Weds a.m. we departed Drury Inlet headed east, looking for a next anchorage. Friend Robin on M/V Adventures, living in Alaska now, posts reviews on the Active Captain app, and we always find her posts to be "spot on", so when we saw one she'd written stating she and Jim love the Viner Sound anchorage, we headed there. 

This is another beautiful place with dense trees, steep mountains, and deep waterways, narrower and much more snug than most, with a 1,500 foot vertical  slope rising from the head of the cove.

All evening, schools of a half dozen dolphin zipped in view of the boat through the anchorage, presumably fishing.

Thurs morning Bob had a boat project he wanted to complete, so Cathryn took off in the dinghy with a fishing rod. She returned 5 minutes later needing fresh batteries for the portable depth sounder, and WOW: there was a black bear on the beach 100' away! 

We watched for 15 minutes with camera and binoculars in hand while the bear turned over rocks in search of crab, then ambled into the woods.

Cathryn resumed her first solo fishing expedition in the dinghy, out of sight of the mothership, so had low expectations. Instead, 20 minutes later, while idling near a rocky shore, two eagles flew 50' overhead, several pods of dolphins swam by, and another bear appeared on a different beach.

She watched in awe for 15 minutes until her fishing rod gave a jerk, and she wondered if she'd drifted too close to shore and snagged a rock. But then the "rock" swam away, pulling fishing line out along with it! 

It didn't take long to reel the fish in, but on seeing it, Cathryn (novice fisher) had no idea what it was. And uh oh: she'd forgotten to bring the fish net to land it! The fish looked too big for small test line, so she was reluctant to lift him aboard, figuring the line would break and she'd lose him. She tried to scoop him into a 5-gallon bucket, but that didn't work either. Big mouth! What to do???

Despite being more than a mile around the corner from Phoenix, she decided to slowly idle home with the fish in tow, still on the line. Then "Uh Oh" again. A sea lion surfaced, getting ever closer to the dinghy and clearly with an eye on the fish. Now Cathryn knew she could lose the fish by breaking the line or pulling the hook out, by towing it too fast, or to a sea lion on the hunt! So she lifted the fish on the line into the dinghy, and it didn't break! But it didn't land in the bucket either. She made a beeline back to Phoenix, called Bob on the VHF radio, asked him to have the fish net ready, and all ended well.

We don't know what this fish is (Bob guessed a lingcod, later confirmed by brothers-in-law David B and Bob S, and cousin Bill L). It weighed 9 lbs, and Cathryn made her best inexperienced effort at filleting it, so we've got 8 fillets, 4 dinners worth of fish in store and are happy to have finally caught something. And the sun came out!

After two nights and one day in this anchorage we remained mesmerized and decided to stay one more day. We dropped a crab pot,

and got 6 Dungeness crabs, but one was a huge female, 4 were "too-small males" (Canadian size requirements are 1/4 inch bigger than Washington State requirements), so we threw 5 back and kept one. 

And we both went fishing in the dinghy in the afternoon. Bob got 6 bites, 3 of those got away, and the fish he hauled in were some sort of rock fish which are illegal to keep in some areas, and he threw them back. But it was sunny and warm, and we had a good time.

We're in the middle of Nowhere here, and very oddly, Cathryn's phone would "ding" several times a day, signaling incoming email. Apparently a cell signal very occasionally bounces off the nearby mountain and finds its' way inside the anchorage. Hence the occasional Facebook post during our 3 days here. 

Viner Sound anchorage has been a good stop. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Jennis Bay

Tuesday morning at anchor in McLaughlin Islands was . . . dreary. Gray, cloudy, light mist, though still beautiful. We got a slow start, then meandered east in Drury Inlet to drop a prawn pot in a 260' deep hole. We drifted for an hour on one engine, then pulled the pot, and Bingo, prawns! 65 of them.

We dawdled into Jennis Bay marina (rustic, no electricity, no water, no garbage drop, but astonishingly good wifi!) and tied up for the night. 

It's a small, charming spot where the owner's 4-year-old daughter roams the dock and chimes "Permission to board!" and "Welcome to Jennis Bay!" as each boat arrives. 

Muirhead Islands, Drury Inlet

Last night (Monday) was calm and warm, suitable for sitting in the cockpit to watch the moonrise at anchor in Claydon Bay.

For the next week we'll travel shorter distances over no big bodies of water, so the dinghy is back in tow mode instead of hoisting it up to the cockpit roof each time after use.

This segment of the Inside Passage has lots of "tidal rapids", narrow segments, usually shallow and rocky. The flood and ebb tides change direction through these channels every 6 hours or so, and currents in the rapids run 4-15 knots depending on location. It's important to accept additional risk if challenging a rapid running that fast, or run it at slack tide when it's completely benign. We always run them at slack. Stuart Narrows, one such tidal rapid, guards the entrance to Drury Inlet. So we got a late start this morning, timing departure from our anchorage to hit slack tide 5 miles away at 10:20 am. Uneventful. 

Tonight's anchorage at Muirhead Islands is pretty, with no other boats in sight. 

16 miles from last night's anchorage, we arrived early enough to get anchored and take off in the dinghy to explore Actress Passage and Actaeon Sound, a long northeast running arm from Drury Inlet. 15 miles and 2 hours later, we were back at Phoenix, disappointed. Actaeon Sound and Actress Passage are occupied by an active logging operation. Here's the logging camp, a modern facility on a barge, surrounded by log booms and clear-cutting.

Lots of Skid Roads occupy the shorelines  to help move logs off the hills to awaiting log booms to be towed to a mill.

The noise of such operations, and the clear cutting, means there's little wildlife.
We saw seagulls, an occasional seal's head, one kingfisher, and one seal hauled out on a rock (on the right in photo below).

Before we left home, while we and Captain Bob Smith were busy making modifications to Phoenix to get ready for this trip, we changed out most of the interior light bulbs and anchor light to replace them with LED bulbs which use a tiny fraction of the power of fluorescent or halogen bulbs, but are quite a bit more expensive. 

This is important when anchoring, as they use far less stored battery power, especially if you dislike the noise of running a generator in an otherwise serene anchorage (though the generator on Phoenix is quieter than any boat we've owned previously).

For almost 2 months we've felt perhaps we wasted money on this modification, because up north this time of year, daylight hours are 4am to 10:30pm, so we never turned on lights inside the boat. Now, 7 weeks past the Summer Solstice, it's getting dark enough by 8:30pm that we're turning on lights and are happy we have LED bulbs.