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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Fianal Leg- Shearwater to Nanaimo

Friday July 9th 1:30 pm. We spring the boat off the dock, as we are pinned between two large motor vessels. Alana and Kevin depart on the water taxi to Bella Bella to catch their flight home. It was such a pleasure having them aboard, sharing family time together. This night will be spent in pristine Green Island Anchorage.

Saturday July 10th 5:00 am. Up to prepare Steel Eagle for the trip around the notorious Cape Caution.
With flat seas and 3 foot swell we pulled out the main sail to steady the role. Now weather reports will talk about sea conditions. Rippled is a piece of cake. Choppy, you probably can manage. Moderate is a comparative term meaning it’s ok if you’re a freighter, but if you don’t want your wife taking out a membership in the fraternity of “NEVER AGAIN BABY” you had better stay put, open another beer and listen on the VHF to the agonizing complaints of the skippers foolish enough to try.

We had prepared ourselves, with AIS and new radar, for the expected foggy days on this coast, but so far had evaded it. Today it would role in with a vengeance. It was thick stuff, where you peer at the front of the boat, straining your eyes and not seeing more than 100 feet. We had experienced this on our first trip around Vancouver Island, only this time, the wind also blew 15 to 20 knots. It was a long, mentally tiring trip past the many reefs and boats until we reached the Walker Islands, where it lifted briefly, only to roll back in. One can only imagine what fear this would have created before the days of GPS and Radar.
As we approached the light house,

the whales performed once again. We have given up trying to photograph them. By the time you get the camera up, they are usually gone. And you’ve missed the show looking for the damn thing.
Tonight would be spent at anchor across from Port McNeil, where our Bell card would allow us to check the internet for a new weather report.
Sunday July 11th 7:30 am. It’s out in the fog again, to catch the current and beat the wind that’s in the forecast for Johnstone Straight. By 1:30 pm, as we turn off Johnstone Straight, the 35 knot wind is on our back and whitecaps role by all the way down Sunderland Channel. To Alaska and back, smooth sailing. These are the roughest seas we’ve experienced.

3:30 pm. We swirl our way safely through Whirlpool Rapids reaching speeds up to 11knots, then rock and roll through Greene Point Rapids and dock at the Blind Bay Resort.

It’s up to the Cedar Post Restaurant for a taste of German cuisine. The Blind Bay Resort built and operated by the Richter family has a distinctive flare of its own. With fine dining, fresh baked goods, a well stocked store and such a warm and friendly welcome, we found it well worth the stop.

Monday July 12th 10:30 am. Depart Blind Bay for the public dock at Shoal Bay,

to wait six hours, to transit Dent Rapids at slack. There is lots of room on the dock, as we arrive - but not for long, as the wind has picked up once again, and every boat is running for cover. The next couple of hours were spent assisting boats landing in the wind.

4:30 pm. The wind pushes us off the dock and we head out to attack Dent Rapids, Gillard Passage and the Yucults at the end of the flood. We will spend a few days on our dock at Maurelle Island and do some work on the boat. The Whitehead crew (all eight of them Carl, Jen, Lukas, Josh, Katie, Nigel, Nemo and Bear) are there waiting with open arms to great us once again.

Tuesday July 13th. Up early to take off the dingy davits and attack our much neglected rusty lockers on the back of the boat. The next 4-5 days will be spent grinding, sanding and painting, most of which, in an upside down position, not fun! The guys do get out fishing for a couple of runs and Wayne, in deeds lands a salmon.

Not as large as Carls 42 pounder the week before.
We do enjoy it here, very peaceful and laid back. The sounds of four happy children playing and eagles overhead. In the evenings we join the family up top for supper, bonfire and sing along. Bev’s red potatoes, that we helped Jen plant in April, are now ready. So it’s new potatoes and fresh vegetables from the garden.

Saturday July 17th 2:30 pm. With the boat now put back together we slip the lines once again and spring off the dock. We wave at the kids, with heavy hearts, knowing it will be another year before we see them again.
Tonight we anchor in busy Squirrel Cove. We have never seen so many boats in this bay, but then again, it is July and we usually try and avoid this area in July due to the heavy boat traffic.
Sunday July 18th 6:00 am. Pull up the hook, as Steel Eagle once again must head south. While traveling past Powell River, Wayne plays cat and mouse with two tugs, one pulling 3 containers full of sawdust and the other a log boom.

The weather is beautiful, hot and sunny!
2:30 pm. We dropped the anchor in busy Garden Bay inside Pender Harbour. We had met a great couple, Bill and Lyn Charlton, when we were down in Panama and found out they lived in Pender Harbour. They had just shipped their boat “Canik” back home after a 12 year circum navigation and asked us to stop and see them. Lyn’s sister, Karen and husband Peter were there visiting from Windsor Ontario. We had a great visit with them. After cocktails on Steel Eagle they invited us back to their lovely new home for a very nice fresh fish dinner. After a bit of guitar and songs, we dingy back to the boat.

Monday July 19th 6:00am. We departed Pender Harbour and headed south across the Straits of Georgia. It is calm and sunny with only 7 knots of wind but we unfurl the sails for a smooth ride back to Nanaimo.
One last dumping of the holding tank, in preparation for docking. It has always amazed me that they call it “raw sewage”. Do some people actually cook that stuff?
10:30 am. On approaching Nanaimo we race the Departure Bay ferry into the bay.....the ferry wins!

Richard and Corrie are on the dock with hugs and welcome greetings.
We would like to thank our guest contributors to this blog: Bev, Larry, Gayle, Alana and Kevin. And thank them for joining us and contributing to the wonderful memories.
Our determined 46 foot Kristen had carried us to the far away and fabulous waters of the midnight sun, a fascinating place with frustrating dimensions.
We were feeling our antiquity and knew we had to stay out of trouble. And we had. The trip had developed a deeper appreciation for each other’s courage, patience and understanding.
We did it, you can too!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Prince Rupert to Bella Bella (Shearwater )

Prince Rupert to Bella Bella

July 1: Guest Bloggers: Alana and Kevin Arrive!

Alana and Kevin arrive at Prince Rupert’s small airport from Calgary via Vancouver. We are the last flight of the day. The same burly woman who unloads our luggage onto the baggage bin also drives the bus that will take us into Prince Rupert. Two busses, actually, are waiting for the last cargo of passengers. The entire crew at the airport shuts down the building, locks the doors and joins us on the busses. It’s 7:30 p.m. We load our luggage into an accomp-anying van, and all three vehicles travel, caravan-style, down to the ferry that will take us to Prince Rupert proper.

The cabby who drives us from our drop-point at the Highliner hotel down to the marina informs us that Prince Rupert’s population has shrunk from 20,000 to about 10,000 since the saw mill closed about four years ago. Still, the townspeople are hopeful that their prosperity will improve when a second container terminal is built there. Prince Rupert is known as the “”The Northwest’s Gateway to Canada.” The current container terminal—as well as the grain terminal and the coal terminal—ship Canadian goods directly to sea ports such as Japan. Since these products get loaded directly from rail carriers rather than stock piles, they can reach their destinations in two or three days, rather than five to seven from Vancouver.

But enough intellectualizing. The boat, and Wayne and Wendy, await! As do at least half a dozen magestic bald eagles circling, swooping and chit-chattering over the marina. Wendy says they’re as common around these parts as magpies or crows, but we refuse to be persuaded they’re anything but extraordinary. A Norwegian cruise ship, about seven stories tall, sneaks silently out of the harbour as we close the day with hugs and laughter, cheese and crackers, wine and rum, and a new delicacy called smoked oysters with sour cream potato chips. Wayne, its co-inventor, is right on the money when he says, Ït’s a TASTE SENSATION!”

July 2: Is This a Sailboat or a Motor Boat?
At six a.m. Steel Eagle’s engine rumbles, and we’re off to the fuel dock to start our day. Alana had hoped to play wildlife photographer this morning, but the eagles are nowhere to be found. Maybe they’re sleeping in.

A seven-hour motor takes us past Prince Rupert’s ferry terminals and export docks, through foggy Petrel Channel, and on to Newcombe Harbour to drop anchor. The dark water sparkles beneath an overcast sky. The usual rhythm of our sailing trips has begun: Wayne at the helm, Wendy lifting or dropping the anchor chain with Kevin’s alert assistance, and Alana generally reading, dozing, helping out or sleeping in, as needed. After all, what’s a vacation without some sleeping in! Our tummies are usually full of some delectable concoction from Chef Wendy’s galley. Today, it’s ham and egg English muffins for breakfast, home-made chicken soup for lunch and filet mignon with fried mushrooms, mashed potatoes and corn for dinner. The smells wafting from down below are pure heaven! And because we usually use Steel Eagle’s 90 horse-power motor rather than her sails, we make pretty good time at an average of 7 knots.
Napping, too, is a highlight of these trips, where we shove off early while it’s calm. By the time the wind picks up in the afternoon, we’re usually safely tucked into some harbour or cozy inlet, free to relax or explore. Until Happy Hour, that is, when the rested souls emerge and converge with high spirits and conversation. Usually with this crew, there’s also singing and guitar playing. But today there’s a twist. Alana and Kevin pull out Wayne’s two new harmonicas and proceed to teach themselves the Star Spangled Banner, in preparation for the Fourth of July. It will be their first anniversary. Unfortunately Prince Rupert had no Canada Day fireworks yesterday. Not to worry! This cross-border couple plans to make good on Kevin’s promise to ensure they have fireworks every year, in some form – even if he did pick America’s day of independence to marry his Canadian sweetheart and give up some of his own.

Oh, well. Our boat is the only one in Newcombe Harbour. The silence is breathtaking. This kind of freedom can’t be bought anywhere.

July 3: The West Coast Shows its True Colours
The ocean truly does resemble a mirror at 7 o’clock this morning. In complete calm, it’s hard to tell the difference between the upside-down and right-side-up mountains and evergreens as we exit Newcombe Harbour, again under high fog. Some 10-knot winds raise light chop once we enter wide Principe Channel, as we make our way toward shelter in Anderson passage. Wayne hopes the “kids” will be able to kayak there around the cove’s several protected islets. Alas, after showering Wayne and Wendy with excellent weather for most of their Alaskan trip, the West Coast opens her skies wider, the rain gets heavier, and this travelling family spends the night playing cross-crib as the windows fog up and the rain washes the Steel Eagle’s shimmering cocoon.

July 4: Independence Day (National Geographic Day)
Up anchor at 6 am, and Happy Anniversary! Alana and Kevin receive several presents from nature right away. First, what is that strange blue entity peeking through the by-now-routine clouds? And then: dolphins! Well, dahl porpoises, to be exact. Two of them, at first, and then two more trailing behind. The leaders make their way to the bow of the boat, where they propel themselves out of the water and play in the bow’s wake. Wendy says they sometimes do this for an hour or more. But today there must be fish in these parts, and our playmates soon disappear to pursue dinner, we presume. The creatures were shorter and plumper than the porpoises Alana and Kevin are used to seeing in the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston. And instead of being silver-grey, their skin is charcoal grey, with white ovals on their bellies—much like a miniature orca. Their brief visit lingers in our smiles all day.

A loon leads us all the way in to our next anchorage. Her four babies repeatedly dive to hide themselves as we pass them off our port side. Again, our boat anchors alone. We fill the foggy air with music and maracas and song this evening. But not before a young grizzly bear—perhaps about three years old—appears on the shore, grazing and exploring a 30-metre line of beach perhaps 100 yards from the boat. Wayne explains that bears enjoy the so-called “salt grass” that grows at the edge of inlets like this. And indeed, this blundering young one seems content to graze very similarly to a cow.

Wayne is acutely aware, however, that “Grant the Grizzly” (as Wendy later names him) is absolutely not a cow, and starts to squirm visibly in his captain’s chair after the bear lingers for at least two hours on the same shore. We honk the Steel Eagle’s horn, and the bear barely raises its head. He sniffs in our direction, and goes back to his grass, chewing off their tops. He turns over some boulders that look very heavy, and roots around at the bottom of a tree before disappearing into the woods, emerging again 10 or 15 minutes later a few more metres down shore. We’ve set garbage on the stern, and Wayne thinks the bear will come to get it. (Has he mentioned that bears scare the hell out of him?) Wendy and Alana don’t think the bear could swim over here and climb onto the back of the boat, but Kevin and Wayne both disagree—Kevin having fended off a brown bear with pots and pans (no reaction) and, finally, an air horn at an Ontario campsite years ago. We discuss pulling anchor and moving, but at least some of the crew scoffs at this notion, accusing Wayne of being scared by the multiple books he’s read about beat-up, lonely and HUNGRY 3-year-old black bears hauling horsemen off their horses, even at a gallop. Hyperbole?
In the end, we decide that if the bear were really interested in our garbage (or our fragrant dinner, for that matter), he would already have started to swim in our direction. We compromise by laying out the bear spray and the flares near the locked cabin door, and reminding each other of the boat pole’s location before retiring to bed.

July 5: Native Culture Old and New
The small village of Klemtu has a locally renowned long house – a kind of native community hall, where potlatch gatherings (for surrounding tribal bands) are held. The crew enjoyed our first full day of sunshine wandering the town, conversing with the townspeople, and buying some artwork and a painted paddle that Wendy and Wayne will display at Mabel Lake.
A highlight of this day was also a tour of a fishing boat, docked at the fish plant. The six-member crew had pulled in to the Klemtu dock at 9 am, after leaving at 10 pm the night before and travelling an hour and a half to a local salmon farm. The boat’s technology is made in Australia but used in few other nations besides here. The farmed fish are suctioned into the boat’s holding tank. Then water is flushed towards them, and instinct causes them to swim upstream—unbenownst to them, when they swim forward they get sent into a device that stuns them, and then they are flipped over and sent to another device a couple feet away where the device bleeds them out. By the time they hit the holding tank a couple seconds later they are already dead and within an hour they are chilled to 0 degrees C. This method is one of the most humane and produces fish that have longer shelf life than others harvested in other ways—up to 12 days compared to three to five for conventionally harvested fish.

July 6: Electronic Refurb in Rescue Bay
We stayed in Rescue Bay last night, a picturesque bay with mini-islands at the entrance and a snow-capped mountain on the horizon. Numerous water birds kept us company for the evening, but Grizzly Grant’s brother Garth was nowhere to be found, despite the fact that Captain Wayne backed the boat up within jumping distance of the shore. Kevin, Wayne and Wendy got their project hats on, and wired the stereo for two or three hours. Now Wayne is proud to report that his new computer can talk to the stereo system with HDMI technology – whatever that means.

We motored for two hours to Oliver Cove, where Wayne and Kevin were going to go fishing. Alas, a wind kicked up so we dove back into our books for a few hours. Good thing we all like at least some measure of solitude. Kevin and Wayne topped off the evening by beating the pants off Alana in a card game of hearts after Wendy went to bed.

July 7: Fish Tales!
This morning we had a rare day of sleeping in a bit as our next anchorage was only about 15 miles away. About 9 am we pulled up anchor and headed southward through Reid passage for about a mile. We then turned east into Seaforth Channel where we dropped out fishing lines on downriggers placed at a depth of 60 feet. Within a short time the mini-cowbell on the one line went a-jingling signalling a fish on the line. Alana pulled the rod out of its holder, and Kevin reeled in a 25.5-inch Coho salmon. It was the only fish we landed that day, but it sure was excellent with a supper of shrimp kebabs and Ceasar salad!

We pulled into Whiskey Cove at about 2:30 p.m., and everyone spent the rest of the afternoon impersonating real yacht bunnies, sun tanning on the front deck and generally lazing around with books and cold beer. This anchorage is busier than the others we’ve slept in, with a picturesque B ‘n B, several dwellings and docks, and some dock bunnies from Vancouver that landed here later this evening to test the ocean waters while the Steel Eagle crew enjoyed the sunset (and Wayne and Kevin enjoyed the bikini clad dock bunnies through binoculars).

The captain gets us safely to Shearwater Harbour, where Alana and Kevin will catch their flight home from Bella Bella. Steel Eagle will continue south.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Thorne Bay to Prince Rupert

Thursday June 17 11:50 am. We are docked at the city harbour, Thorne Bay, Alaska.

The current community evolved from a Ketchikan Pulp company’s floating construction camp in 1960and soon became the world’s largest logging camp. Through the “Big time Logging Era” of the 1960s and 70s with up to 600 residents, as the major logging operations shifted to other camps, Thorne Bay’s role shifted to a transportation hub where log rafts were delivered, scaled, graded, sorted and remanufactured. At the heart of this operation was a 47,000 pound grapple which hoisted and later gently returned whole bundles weighing up to 200,000 lbs to and from the salt water. The “Claw” still remains in the City of Thorne Bay.

Incorporated in 1982 as the City of Thorne Bay, the city supposedly had many convenient services. We questioned this, as now within the sleepy town, we find a post office/coffee shop, school, well stocked grocery store, and a small liquor store.

Friday June 18th 6:00 am. Departed Thorne Bay bound for Ketchikan. -Back to the busy city with float planes

Wayne BBQs lunch as the cruise ships go by.

Then off on the bikes to Wal-Mart – 2 ½ miles up 3 long hills only to ask on our arrival – What was it we came for? Think of something – jeans for $12.00. Too much exercise after sitting doing nothing for days. You know you’re getting old when everything hurts. And what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work. The ride back was a speedy one, with brakes a smoking. Can be a little dangerous peddling your butt around on the very narrow streets of Ketchikan, especially the way Wendy rides a bike! There are three choices, the oncoming vehicle, the mountainside or the beach.

5:00 pm. Enough Shopping as it is Happy Hour on the SV Dilligaf. They had spent the night in Myers Chuck and are re-provisioning for their journey over to the Queen Charlottes. It was so nice to meet them once again in Ketchikan, as we did in May. We traded great Alaska stories.

Back to set up the computer to get the latest NOAA weather maps.

Sunday June 20 4:45 am. Happy Fathers Day! Steel Eagle departs the bustling city of Ketchikan and slowly weaves her way past the two cruise ships coming in. It’s just another close encounter with big boats. They have the right of way ALL THE TIME!

Our next jump is back across Dixon Entrance and we will run all the way to Prince Rupert if the weather permits. But just in case, we familiarize ourselves with all the bailouts. You have to respect these big bodies of water, even in the good weather of summer. And cross we did all the way back to the welcome feeling of Canada. We had crossed Dixon twice with no more than 10 knots of wind. This goes to prove nothing.....other than the Mikkelsen’s have been 2 times lucky. Our friends Lou and Mary had waited 12 days, a few years ago, for the seas to calm down.

1:00 pm. Only blowing 4 knots out in Chatham Straight and this is good thing for some. As it turns out, the tug pulling his large load of containers has to put on the brakes and change his course, as a sports fisherman has had engine problems. We did a dose -doe with the tug to trade positions and I’ll bet he had a few choice words for the fisherman. He probably wished the fisherman the best of luck... but not in those words.

5:30 pm. Transit the busy Venne Passage, with fisherman galore, the derby is on and they are on the move.

We put our call into the Canadian Custom Office to see if we are allowed back into the country only to find out, from the gentleman in Ottawa, that we must put in on the dock in Prince Rupert and wait 15 minutes, if no one shows up to check us out, we are free to go.

Prince Rupert. It’s different than when we were here in May, the Prince Rupert Yacht Club has a full house.

6:30 pm. After another long day at sea, we picked Pilsbury Cove, as it is the closest anchorage and would allow us to dingy to town for supplies if needed.

We will stay here a few days. Giving us time to do some work on the Steel Eagle, read, watch movies, and practice our singing as we are the only ones in the anchorage. Our singing sounds pretty good to us but has been described as something of a cross between a Saskatchewan coyote, turkey gobbler and someone using the barf bag on a 747. It never was original but now it’s more like aboriginal.

We will work on the boat, painting, staining floors, etc.

It’s boat the work never ends!! While awaiting our guest we decide enough work, time for a break so we take the dingy into Prince Rupert for some supplies and on the way out we play cat and mouse with the Norwegian Star that just pulled in to harbor.

Must do some more charting as soon it will be time to head south!