Summer Is Here

So, now it’s time for jackets and our heater.  Seriously, the weather has turned cold and cloudy.  They say August is “Fogust”, but then what’s July?  Cold, I guess.

Anyway, we’ll stay optimistic – even though the weather charts are showing otherwise.  There is just low, after low, after low coming down the pike from Alaska.  Oh well.  We do have some time in the afternoons that is nice, so we’ll make the best of it.

Well, we haven’t posted in about a week.  During the last week we have been comfortably tied up at the dock at Port McNeiil.  Kind of a respite.  Enjoying new friends, some travel and in particular the evening BBQ at the marina dock.  It’s a nice spot to bring our Charismas and some dinner and chat with the others who are coming through.

We have also taken advantage of the local ferry boat to visit nearby Alert Bay and Sointula Islands.  Alert Bay is about a 40 minute ride and has a wonderful First Nation (native) museum.  The rest of the town is unfortunately largely falling down.  It’s too bad that they are not preserving some of the old buildings.  There is so much history just rotting.  Seems that there is no local government.  The only government is provincial and seemingly not local enough to organize.

Same with Sointula.  As with Alert Bay, it is a lovely island and there are some worthy sights to see – in particular some nice hikes – but much of the “bay-side” buildings are rotting to the water.  Too bad.  However, right off the ferry there is a tourism office of sorts and they have free bicycles!  Just one speed, but comfortable and in good shape.  And there are few hills on the island, so Ann and I had a really nice day riding to a couple of spots where we did some nice hikes to a lake and across to the other side where there’s a beach.

Back at Port McNeill, we also had a nice car ride afternoon one day, where we used the “courtesy van” the marina offers and went to Telegraph Cove with our new friends Allison and Jerry from S/V Kingfisher of Richmond Yacht Club in California.  Fun to meet people who we “almost” know from past lives.  We’ve enjoyed meeting with them several times over the past six weeks as our paths have crossed and the trip to Telegraph Cove was a lovely day.  Hint to other cruisers:  Telegraph Cove is very, very, very narrow.  Don’t plan to stop here unless your boat is very maneuverable and not too big – or like us you take a car!

So, this morning we left Port McNeiil with lots of supplies.  We think we’ll be “out there” for three or four weeks with minimal resupply opportunities and likely minimal internets, but we’ll try to keep posting if only via shortwave radio.  We are currently back in the no-name cove on the northwest corner of Hanson Island.  It’s a peaceful spot and just the right distance for a day run – about 15 miles.  Easy days.  And, we saw whales on the way here.  They first surfaced and “blew” about 100 yards away and we watched them over the next twenty minutes or so as they alternately dove to feed and came back up, until they headed out away from our route.

Anyway, we’re aiming to get to Echo Cove on Monday.  It’s another of those “have to see” spots up here.  Several local characters (Billy Procter, Pierre, etc), fun BBQs, etc.  We’ll keep you apprised.

So, other than resupply, that’s what we’ve been doing.

Orca Sighting

OK, it was fleeting.  We were en route from our little cove at Hansen Island to Port McNeiil.  About a 15 mile run.  We left our cove at 0600 because the winds have been very high for the past couple days and predicted same, still into tomorrow – but in the very early mornings, until about 1000 they are low.  We decided to chance it and make the dash to Port McNeiil where we had a reservation (good thing).  It paid off as we got here by 0930 and within half an hour it was howling.  As for the reservation, good thing on that too as it’s full here.  This is a smallish place by “real” marina standards, but it’s the only place around to resupply for the Broughton’s.

Port McNeiil sounds like a big place and it is – when compared to, um, the little islands with nothing on them.  Actually it has a couple docks and a ferry service, and the town has a IGA Grocery (like a Safeway), a marine store, a few restaurants and an auto parts store, but this is a place where you can walk everywhere (which we did today to start restocking Charisma for the next month) in less than half an hour.  It’s not very big.  Oh, yes and most importantly there is a liquor store!  Wine, beer and rum!

Also there is the ferry service to a couple of “touristy” spots we would like to visit that are easier to see via ferry than via boat.  Alert Bay on Cormorant Island purportedly has the best museum, art, etc on native culture and there is another small island (Malcolm Island) with a town called Sointula where Finnish settlers in the turn of the 19th century created a supposed utopian settlement to escape European turmoil.  Both will be interesting to visit.

Oh, yeah, the Orca – I was at the helm in the rain at about 0700 and we were motoring along.  Ann was making coffee down below and I just happened to be “zoning” off looking over to starboard at just the moment a female (short fin) orca surfaced momentarily right in my line of sight and then dove.  It was literally a four second kind of spotting.  I started shouting “Orca, orca!” to Ann and jumped to get my camera, but by the time I had camera in hand and Ann came up all that was left was a whirlpool where the orca dove.  Got a good glimpse since I was looking right at her – black, torpedo shaped, tall fin (but not as tall and narrow as the males) and big – estimate 20-ish feet.  Cool, but wish there had been a pod and a photo op.  We’ll keep hoping.

Anyway, we have pretty good internets here for the first time since I can’t remember when, so we’ll hopefully get some pictures posted in the next few days.



Hanson Island

It’s Wednesday, July 13 and we’re in a little cove on the north side of Hanson Island.  It’s only know as a “cove behind Spout Islet”.  It’s just to the east of Double Bay.  We will stay here today and tomorrow then jump to Port McNeiil where we have a reservation to stay at the marina on Friday.  As with most places up here the concept of marina is pretty basic.  They are mostly not much more than a single dock, but Port McNeiil actually has a couple docks and stores, a ferry, laundry, etc.  In other words civilization.  We haven’t been close to real civilization for a few weeks now, so it will be a nice change.

Importantly it’s a chance to resupply before heading further north.  This is likely the last place where we can do serious provisioning.  After this it’s “catch as catch can” which means there are a few places that you can get a few goods that come in by seaplane.  If you’re there when the seaplane lands you might get some fresh stuff, but if not…

Also from Port McNeiil I think we’ll take a ferry to Alert Bay where there is supposed to be an excellent First Nation museum/art that would otherwise be a pain to anchor/dock.  So, we’ll be at Port McNeiil enjoying civilization for a few days for the last time for a while – maybe a month or so.

Getting here today was interesting.  Another one of those tiny passes.  From Goat Island we went down Indian Channel (south and mostly west) to a pass called White Beach Passage.  If you look on the chart you can hardly tell there’s room to get through.  But we’ve learned to slow waaay down and watch the depth and stay in the middle and we can get through which is what we did.  It’s a little hair-raising though.  Once through it was an easy romp across Blackfish Sound to our little cove on Hanson Island.

A bonus – once we anchored Ann heard the distinct sound of a whale exhale and sure enough, there were whales swimming by our cove.  Fun to watch.  Then with a nice day of warm sunshine.  We took advantage of the good weather and paddle boarded around the cove.

Goat Island

So we decided to skip the First Nation ruins upon reading, “…there is a fee to accessing the village…”  We’d rather “discover” something instead of pay to see a fallen totem – which is apparently all there is to see.

So, instead we diverted to Goat Island.  There’re no goats, just a tiny island with one tree on it.  We anchored in a sweet little cove a hundred or so yards away and dinghied over to “claim” the island for Charisma (which means I peed on it).  Anyway, a fun little trip and the anchorage was stunning.  Very “tucked in”.  Good thing since once we got there it rained for two days.  We collected a bunch of water for the tank (10 gallons!), and got a lot of reading done, but not much else.  Tried some crabbing, but no joy, so just enjoyed the solitude.

Another Bear! (Oh My!)

Yup, bear encounter #2.  Fortunately WE were on Charisma and Mr. Bear was on the beach.  It was a different bear than before as bear #1 had a distinct gash above his right eye and this one did not.  We are being more diligent about bringing our noise maker (a can with rocks in it that Ann shakes vigorously as we walk) ashore as well as our air horn (like at Cal Games) that hopefully would scare a bear should we encounter one and pepper spray now that we have actually SEEN the bears.  We hope not to have to resort to the pepper spray since the directions are to, “wait unit the bear is 12 feet away before deploying spray”.  These bears are very big.

So…today, the sun came out a little and we moved all of a mile across Beware Channel to Dead Man’s Cove.  Nice.  This is where the Monk’s Wall is located.  After anchoring, we jumped in the dinghy with the requisite bear repelling equipment and went ashore.  Just in from the tree line we found the wall.  As the guide books will note, it was not actually built by Chinese Monks as was initially rumored, but by a couple who built a trading post here in the mid-1800’s.  Very cool nonetheless.  We also found some very old “stuff” on the ground – porcelain and iron items – and put them on a board near the wall where they belong.  The area actually encompasses several rock walls built to make a trading post. A house, yard and probably livestock enclosure.  It was impressive how many linear feet of granite wall was built – by hand.  A rough guess on my part would be about 200 yards of wall, over four feet high as well as the main trading post wall that was over eight feet high and wrapped around a footprint in the neighborhood of 30 by 40 feet.  Must have been pretty impressive in the mid-eighteen hundreds!  And all done by hand.

Tomorrow we hope to move about 8 miles north to a cove just outside of some native First Nation ruins.  We’ll report on that when we see it

A couple more days and we plan to be in Port McNeil on Vancouver island where hopefully  we’ll have a strong enough internet signal to post the many, many great photos we’ve been saving for these posts.  Cross fingers!

Still In Beware Cove

Spent the day here waiting out the rain. Turned out to be a very nice afternoon, after a very rainy night and morning. I fished (caught some small ones, threw them back), Ann paddle boarded and then the rain came back in the evening. Tomorrow should be better and we plan to move…somewhere. We’ll let you know tomorrow. As we say, our plans are written in the sand at low tide. Right now, it just turned high tide.

We’re kind of bidding our time for a few days and will then head to Port McNeil on Vancouver Island for a big resupply before heading back out into the wilderness.

Beware of the Bear!

Yup, just as we were very carefully inching our way into Beware Bay I spied a bear foraging at the low tide line.  A very large black bear.

We had initially planned to go to a spot on the other side of Beware Passage called Dead Point (what names!), but some stormy weather suggested we would be best to go upwind to the other side, so we pulled into Beware Cove on the north side of the passage.  Turned out to be a good choice as later in the day there were whitecaps driving down into Dead Bay and three or four very, very loud thunderclaps suggesting perhaps some more significant winds in the evening.

Beware Cove seems aptly named.  Beware the bear.  No hiking for us today.  But…a stunning sight to see such a majestic animal casually roaming the tide line – probably looking for crabs.  As we were preparing to anchor less than 100 yards from Mr Bear, we could easily see him casually knocking aside 70 ++ pound rocks as if they were play toys.  And he could have cared less that we were here.  Neither of us saw as much as a glance from him as we dropped anchor and put Charisma into reverse and backed down – usually a somewhat noisy series of events.

OK, we are in the wilderness.  Did I mention the eagles we watched building their nest?  Seems a little late in the season, but we saw both of a nesting pair carrying very large sticks across the cove to their nest.

I did some fishing and caught a couple of small sculpins.  As I understand it, if they are larger they are cabazone, which we used to treasure as “good eatin’” off the coast of Mendocino.  These guys were too small though, so back they went.  I put the crab trap out as well but in just a couple hours only caught a couple “little guys” and threw them back – well one might have been OK, but just as I was about to measure him he got ahold of my thumb.  Needless to say, he was flung some feet off the starboard side of the dinghy along with a yelp!  Anyway, put the trap back in for the night and will check it again in the morning.

I will also pay more attention to my thumbs in the future.

Uh, Oh…Beware Passage

A name like that HAS to get your attention.  Beware Passage.  Hmmm.  A look at the chart gives one pause.  Lots of rocks and shoals at the entrance from Clio Channel which is where we were at Lagoon Cove.

The sailing guide for the area (Waggoner Guide) suggests a torturous route through the rocks, shoals and kelp called Towboat Pass.  Not having any other option other than taking a 20-mile detour through Johnstone Straight, we decided to follow the recommended route.

In the mean time, just looking at some of the names of the landmarks in the area continued to provoke anxiety.  Beware Pass, Care Rock, Caution Cove, Dead Point.  I think you get the point.  Be very, very careful.

We left Lagoon Cove this morning at about 1000 and proceeded down Clio Channel for about 6 miles to Beware Passage.  As we approached the passage, there were so many shoals, islands and rocks you could hardly see beyond into the clear part.  OK, this was going to take some concentration.  The course called to take Nicholas Point close to starboard, then as Karlukwees came to our beam we turned to go through a narrow slot between Kamano Island and an unnamed rock (I almost just closed my eyes it was so narrow, just hoping we wouldn’t hit a submerged rock), then 250 degrees mag across the passage to the other side just behind a small island, where – we were told – we wouldn’t see the small pass we could go through until we were almost in it.  Yipes!  We did as told and voila!  the pass magically appeared.  But, it was very, very narrow.  About the width of a community swimming pool and…as it turned out not much deeper.  Not a lot of room for a 13 ton sailboat to squeeze through.  Going “dead slow” with Ann on the bow watching for rocks and kelp we inched forward.  24 feet deep – no problem.  18 feet, ummm….  15 feet, oooh, I don’t like this.  We went through the narrowest part of the pass with a depth of 11 feet.  As we used to say in Mexico, “No bueno!”  At the narrowest part Ann shouted a warning of kelp beds in front and to the starboard side, so a little to port, then a hard turn to starboard and we were out!   Phew!

All in a day’s work in the Broughton Archipelago.

Jean Barber

Jean is the 80-year-old owner of Lagoon Cove.  Or as noted below, the almost former owner now that Jim Ryan has bought the property and will run it as of approximately September of this year.  She and her late husband, Bill, acquired this property back in 1992 and have built it and the great reputation it enjoys today.

Ann and I had the very good fortune of being able to chat with her yesterday and learn a little bit about her life.  Jean insists that Bill was the entertaining one but we were mesmerized.

I can’t do justice to the whole story since I wasn’t taking notes, but we were enthralled.  So here’s a sketch of what we learned, with the caveat that it’s our interpretation, not a fact-checked bio.

Jean was born in Romania and emigrated to the US in 1951.  At the time – post WWII with the beginnings of the Cold War well under way, Jean’s father correctly realized that unless they wanted to endure under communist, or as Jean noted what they called at the time Bolshevik, rule they had better emigrate.  As Jean tells it, they left Romania  in 1946 for Switzerland from which they could seek the required sponsor who would give them the ability to seek citizenship in the US.  It took four years in Switzerland before they found a sponsor.

At the time of their voyage to the US, Jean was 16 years old and the only member of her family of eleven who spoke English.  So at 16, she became the family translator, getting them processed through Ellis Island, into New York, and on a train to Cincinnati where their sponsor lived.  We clearly understood Jean’s family’s good fortune when we heard her tell that her sponsors were from the Taft and Chase families.  Taft and Chase as in relatives of the former president and of the financial empire.

But the sponsors, while generous people to be helping immigrants who were looking for a better life, obviously weren’t providing long-term support.  For that of course her father needed a job and Jean told of going with him to job interviews where she translated between her father (who was a woodworker and builder) and the prospective employers.  In one such interview Jean told of the prospective employer’s objections. “Why should I hire you?  You use metric measurements and tools, and you don’t speak English so we can’t tell you what is to be done”.  His response, “You have blueprints don’t you?  I can read blueprints”.  After more objections her father finally said, “It is Friday.  You are looking for someone on Monday.  I will come in Monday with new tools and you give me the blueprints of what to build.  If at the end of the week you are not satisfied with my work, you do not have to pay me and all you will be out is for the materials I use”.  He not only got the job but he built a successful career there.

We heard so much other fascinating detail of a family who came here with nothing and built successful lives through hard work and determination, that we just had to get the thread of the story down so we can share at least a very small portion of a wonderful person’s fascinating story.  As Jean self-deprecatingly told it; “But, you know, everyone has a story”.

Getting To Lagoon Cove

Getting here looked like it was going to be another one of those “character building” voyages, somewhat like the rapids we have occasionally traversed on our way north.

On the chart, you can see a very narrow, three mile long traverse from Havannah Channel, where we were, to Minstrel Island and another very narrow channel called “Blow Hole” (more on that one in a minute) that drops you right in at Lagoon Cove.

The first channel is called Chatham Channel.  On the chart it is about 1/16″ wide  😉  and looks terrifyingly narrow.  Well, it turns out to not be as bad as it looks.  We went through a little before slack low tide with depths of around 24 feet (the current gets up to 5 knots at max tide – almost fast than Charisma can go).  Although you could see rocks and mud flats on either side, there are “ranges” at both ends and as long as you keep them carefully lined up, you have no problem although I still breathed a sign of relief as we exited the channel into deeper, wider water.

Then there’s Blow Hole.  Sounds much more ominous.  As we turned the corner from Chatham into Blow Hole we could see numerous rocks jutting out and a blast of wind hit as if a warning shot across the bow.  However after some light hyperventilation I settled down and worked our way through.  Again, not a big problem, you just need to pay attention.

Some character building navigation, but at the end, like the proverbial rainbow is the treasure of Lagoon Cove.