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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shearwater to Nanaimo

Thursday June 23 9:00 am departed St. John’s Harbour for fresh water at Bella Bella. A town with a name so nice, you say it twice. Some things are not so nice here, as we were told unemployment runs in the high 80% range, the highest in Canada. We have normally gone straight to Shearwater, but winter storms had taken out the water and power supply on the docks. Lester, no front teeth, maybe 16, nodding constantly, making pleasant noises but speaking few words, helped me carry up 3 weeks of garbage. I gathered the poor soul was a bit balmy, or “Rum Dumb” as described by a local. Sadly the natives may have lost 2 generations to the whiteman’s drugs and alcohol. He was able to talk me out of $10.00 for his help. You can decide who was balmy.
2:30pm on the docks at Shearwater but this time it is much busier. And the summer student staff has arrived. On the docks, in the bar, at the store, I don’t know who does the hiring but these girls were put together right the first time!
And 2 true yachts. One owner was a big grouchy looking man with a moustache like a small animal attacking his nose.

It was time to catch up on 3 weeks of laundry, do some provisioning, check the internet, answer phone messages and enjoy the pub food!
Friday June 24 at 9:00 am, we ran up to the Marine store to buy more charts, I think we are going to sink the boat if we buy any more charts!
10:00 am. We decided to take the outside route back and check out the Hakai Recreation Area. We rounded Superstition Point then headed south through Spider Channel. After winding our way safely through the Stopper Group, south of Spitfire Island, we dropped the hook in Hurricane Island anchorage. We found this to be a very beautiful and peaceful place, and hope to return some day. There are a number of islands on the west side of Kildidt Sound with names of famous World War II aircraft. During the early years of the war, when these islands were still unnamed, Canadian and U.S. pilots were based at Shearwater. As the pilots began flight patrols over the coast, they gave names to each island, to help identify coastal checkpoints: Spider, Spitfire, Mosquito, Lancaster, Typhoon etc. all legendary airplanes used in the Battle of Britain.
Saturday June 25th 8:30 am we departed Hurricane Island, traversed Brydon Channel, passed through the Kittyhawk Group and out into Kildidt Sound. We had planned to go to Pruth Bay and walk over to west beach for a hot dog roast. The weather did not cooperate, as it was raining, so we changed our route and headed to Green Island anchorage for the night. Oh boy, another boat is in the anchorage, talk about road rage! We’ll have to get used to the crowds as we head south.
Sunday June 26th 7:00 am we left the protected waters of Green Island anchorage passed Addenbroke Light Station
and headed south on Fitz Hugh Sound. This is decision day. Do we round Cape Caution or hold up. We’ll poke our nose out and see. It always involves more preparation when we have to cross open water. Is everything fastened down? Is the weather report still favourable? When we finally go to bed the night before, we lay awake wondering if we missed anything. Then when you finally fall asleep, you dream. I hate dreaming. You’re sleeping away and next thing you know you’re being chased through the woods, by a grizzly, to the music of Jaws. When the alarm rings, you’ve had no rest at all. So we take turns sleeping as we round the Cape – everything going according to plan. Nothing to it. Everyone must have thought the same, as we passed at least 12 boats headed north. I hope they’ve had as little sleep!

By 2:30 we are anchored in Skull Cove for the night. Bill, from MV Ibis, whom we had not seen since the Charlottes, was also heading south and after calling us on the radio, decided to join us. Bill and Lyn brought over pasta for dinner and we did some route planning.
Monday June 27th 7:00am we motored out of the bay and onto the calm waters of Queen Charlotte Straight. Our destination is Sointula, a place we have never visited. We arrived safe and sound at 1:00pm so we had some time to take the mile walk into town before dinner.
Sointula, meaning ”Place of harmony”, is a friendly, picturesque village of about 900 people, and is located on Malcolm Island just east of Port McNeill. The settlement was established in 1900 by Finnish immigrants working in the coal mines from the Nanaimo and Vancouver areas. Their aim was to create a society where property was communal; everyone shared; everyone participated and everyone was equal, including women, a revolutionary concept in those times. The town has colourful painted buildings, with many different fences,
a museum, post office, bakery and a very busy Co-Op Store.
The first residents of Malcolm Island formed the Sointula Co-operative Store Association in 1909 making it British Columbia’s oldest running cooperative. Over one hundred years after it first opened its doors the Co-op remains the social hub of Malcolm Island.
Tuesday June 28th we decided to take the ferry over to see Alert Bay as Lorraine from the marina told us that it was free. After boarding, we were informed that we would have a 2 hour layover in Port McNeill, as luck would have it, Tuesdays was dangerous cargo day. The ferry would be taking fuel & propane trucks only. But they were kind enough to let us take the next one for free as well, but they did advise us to read the schedule properly next time.
Alert Bay, a thriving town on the south side of Cormorant Island, is well sheltered from weather. Residents cater to the tourist trade and there is frequent boat traffic. Commercial, sport fishing, and whale watching, contribute to the bustling atmosphere.
This area is also a Nimpkish Indian Reserve and there is a strong native presence here. Between 1914 and 1920, as happened elsewhere, the authorities banned potlatches and forced the natives to surrender their ceremonial possessions such as masks, totem poles and coppers. In the 1970’s, many of these artefacts were returned and placed in the U’Mista Cultural Center in Alert Bay where we could view them on display.
At the end of the shoreline street, sat the remains of the regal brick building once known at St. Michael’s Residential School for native children. It now sits deserted along with the thunderbird totem poles that guarded it. The cultural center/museum, now standing beside it, will preserve some of their heritage.
We took a stroll down the boardwalk that lines the bay and checked out some of the shops. With 2 1/2 hours still remaining before our return ferry, the locals advised us to check out the Pass’n Thyme restaurant, which was well worth the stop. Wendy, the owner, had lots of good stories to tell. On display were some beautiful pieces from many of the local artists. We did not get back to our boats on the dock in Sointula until 9:30pm, so it was a long but interesting day.
Wednesday June 29th departed Sointula under heavy skies, fog and showers. With radar and AIS to guide us safely past the Pearse Islands, we motored by the famous Robson Bight, an area noted for Orca feeding. We did not see any, very disappointing. The seas were relatively calm so we decided to make our way as far south as possible and get off the worrisome Johnston Straight. By 4:40pm we were anchored in Forward Harbour with 4 other boats.
Thursday June 30th we waited until 2:30pm, when it would be safe to transit Whirlpool rapids during flood and Greenpoint rapids at slack. Once safely through, we made our way to Shoal Bay. Tying up to the dock was out of the question as it was full, and the anchorage looked like a parking lot, the July long weekend boaters had arrived!
Friday July1st - Happy Canada Day! 9:00 am we left Shoal Bay under heavy skies and more showers, Wayne’s comment for the day was, “Quack, Quack, Quack”. We headed south with high hopes of finding the sun. Dancing your way through Dent and Yuculta rapids at spring tides is always a challenge. By 12:30pm we had entered Whitrock Passage and who do we find but “Island Spirit”, Richard and Corrie Solinas and “Black Finn”, Alex and Mona Wile; heading straight toward us. What a nice surprise as they had come north to meet us. Spanish coffees and Banana bread on board while we caught up on their news. The ladies took a hike up the hill to check on the greenhouse and gardens. It was so very strange to be there without any children running to meet us. The place was very quite, so we made lots of noise, as Bear and Nimo (the guard dogs ) have also gone to Terrace. Bear spray in hand, we found lots of berries to eat and Jen’s roses brought a wonderful aroma to the boat. Upon our return to the boat, we were treated to a 5 minute chorus of the wolves howling at less than a quarter mile away. Perhaps a warning, that this yard was their territory now.

This was our final night with “Canik” as Bill and Lyn will depart and head back to Pender harbour to meet their family. We have had such a lovely time with them both and hope for many more adventures to come. Prime Rib on Steel Eagle for dinner, was our Canada Day Special.
Saturday July 2nd slipped the lines and headed south once again. We had heard that there was a new hot tub and pool facilities at Gorge harbour and a good soak was indeed needed. Upon our arrival we were informed that the docks were full but we were welcome to anchor out and could still come in and use the facilities. After a nice long soak, we enjoyed dinner at the small gourmet restaurant. Another great day!
Sunday July 3rd 7am we departed Gorge Harbour and headed for False Bay on Lasqueti Island. We dropped anchor under bright sunny skies. We spent a nice quite afternoon reading and enjoying the sun shine.
Monday July 4th 7 am we crossed the Straight of Georgia and headed for our home port in Nanaimo.

After playing cat and mouse with the Departure Bay ferry, we were greeted at the dock by Brad, Linzie and Coltan.
Our visit to Haida Gwaii has ended. We will now work on the boat; sanding, varnishing and painting. The bimini will be replaced with a new fibreglass one and we will wait for Meghen and Ryan’s arrival.
And of course some visiting on the dock with the neighbours.
As well as a great visit with Anne, Daryl, Brad, Linzie, Taylor and Coltan.