2022 / #9 Discovery Islands

by | Apr 26, 2023 | 2022 Posts

Saturday, September 10

Fog rolled into the bay just after dinner yesterday and by sunset the sky was completely obscured – no sun, no moon, no stars.  But it was calm so we had a delightful night.  By 7 am the visibility in the bay was down to 100 yards so we went back to bed to wait it out.

We finally got underway at about 10:30; by that time the visibility had gone up to 200 yards.  The navigation for the first hour or so was tricky.  There were lots of islands and rocks around us and even when we were in the main channel small aluminum crew boats traveling at 25 knots kept appearing on the Radar headed right for us.  We even saw one or two of them.  And the low sun made for beautiful rainbows in the fog.

By noon we had entered Knight Inlet and headed inland and the fog rapidly dissipated.  Knight is a major mainland inlet that is open to Queen Charlotte Strait in the west so it tends to get wind and waves but today it was calm with clear blue skies.  Although the barometer has been steadily falling for two days (3 mbar in the last 6 hours alone) the days have continued to be beautiful, once the fog burns off.

Since the moon is full the tides and currents are at their maximum and we want to transit the Chatham Channel range near slack.  So for the night we pulled into the Minstrel Island public dock, a convenient jumping off spot.  Once upon a time there was a small community here but it is long abandoned, the buildings falling apart and the land being taken over by underbrush.  Three years ago when we were here there were two small floats and a ramp to shore.  Now the ramp is gone and the dock floats have been expanded with some new pilings to increase capacity, but with no shore access except by dinghy.

Right near the public floats there are two houses that comprise the Grizzly Bear Lodge and we got to watch the small boats come and go, taking Lodge customers on fishing trips, whale watching or grizzly bear watching tours.  They come by float plane from Campbell River.


Sunday, September 11

We hung around the dock in the morning waiting for the tide – we wanted to go through the range near slack – and tried to get a mile in by walking the dock. I think we got tired of seeing the same scenery long before a mile but it was good to get a bit more exercise than the boat allows.

We left at the right time and traversed the range with no issues and headed out for Johnstone Strait.  The forecast was for E winds diminishing to light and when we stuck our nose in the Strait the wind was blowing strongly from dead ahead and had raised a 2 foot chop.  It really wasn’t too bad and knowing it was likely to improve we kept heading into the wind and waves.  Soon a small pod, maybe 6-10, of Dall’s Porpoises found us and decided to play in our bow wave.  So of course I had to head forward and watch them weave back and forth under our bow.  It’s so unpredictable that when it happens it is always a thrilling event.  The whole thing lasted maybe 2 minutes.

As forecast, after an hour or so the wind fell to light and the 2 foot chop became ripples.  The day became a pleasant and dull trip under autopilot.  We watched other boats, such as the 128 foot yacht “Ostera”, and the surrounding hills, at least those we could see through the smoke in the air coming from wildfires on the mainland. Every once in a while the sun would threaten to break through but it never really happened until late afternoon.  Our destination for the night was Forward Harbour which is a well protected anchorage located just before the start of a series of rapids that mark the route to Desolation Sound, our next objective.


Monday, September 12

We checked the tide tables twice and we were still allowed to make a leisurely start.  Whirlpool Rapids was only a short distance away and of all the tidal rapids in the Discovery Islands, Whirlpool Rapids is the most benign.  So we decided to get to the rapids an hour before slack.  There was some minor turbulence and our speed slowed by more than 3 knots but we made it through without any problems.  On to the next one, Green Point Rapids which we were planning to transit much closer to slack than Whirlpool.

As we relaxed after the first rapids we noticed that three small commercial fishing boats were about a mile ahead of us.  They were going exactly the same speed as Mischief and heading in the same direction.  So we formed this odd little flotilla headed East and stayed together for the next two hours, spaced about the same distance apart.

Green Point Rapids was almost exactly slack when we got there – you wouldn’t even know it was a rapids but for the name.  Our flotilla continued on until we turned off to go to our anchorage of choice for the night, Handfield Bay.  It’s a very small bay with room for only one or two boats, luckily empty when we arrived so we found a good spot and dropped the hook.  On shore there is a trail that leads about 0.2 miles to a small salt water lagoon so we, of course, took the opportunity for shore leave.  It wasn’t a real trail, just a bushwhacking track that enough people had followed that you couldn’t get lost.  It was good to get off the boat but we are definitely looking forward to the more developed trails in Desolation Sound.

There is a large shallow area and at high tide good sized fish gathered along the shore line and kept leaping out of the water.  Sometimes in groups to make a big splash.  We had no idea why they were behaving this way but they did it all night long.

Handfield Bay is part of Thurston Bay Marine Park, one of a network of protected marine parks in British Columbia.  Handfield is particularly noted for its bears so we are hoping to see some tonight or tomorrow morning.  In the meantime we are fascinated by the bird life – loons, grebes, mergansers, kingfishers, ospreys, eagles ravens and gulls.


Tuesday, September 13

No bears were sighted but as the tide went out a number of the jumping fish were stranded on shore attracting the attention of eagles and ravens.  If we had waited till low tide the bears might have come for the feast but we had places to go.

Our route for the day would take us through two rapids and several different channels where we expected the current to be against us.  But we didn’t have a good idea how much current that would be so we left early enough to guarantee we would have enough time – in this case 3 1/2 hours to go 15 miles.  We had a way to deal with being early but not for being late.  Along the way, in Okisollo Channel, a pod of a dozen or more Dall’s Porpoises caught sight of our boat and for a good 10 minutes played along with us.  The water was clear enough to see them move under the boat. Spectacular.  Dall’s Porpoises are known for the splash they make every time they surface.  Can you see the five in this picture?

As it turned out we were early by almost an hour so we pulled into Owen Bay, a large bay near the rapids which is totally out of the current.  The bay is shallow enough to anchor but is also large enough for us to just drift for an hour and eat lunch while we waited for the right time to pull back out into the current.  So we drifted and when the time came, put the engine in gear and headed out.  Our timing was again good, we were early by 2 minutes, and we had minor current in Hole-In-The-Wall narrows, our final rapids.

As we came out of Hole-In-The-Wall channel, we merged with all the boats that had come through Dent Rapids on the same slack, some of whom were going our direction.  So we joined the crowd and headed for one of our favorite places, Von Donop Inlet.  In addition to the good anchoring and lots of room we like Von Donop for the access to hiking trails.  It was too late when we arrived but we are planning to stay a couple of days to hit the trails.  We had to make due with dancing on the fly bridge. All-in-all it’s been a good trip through all the rapids of the Discovery Islands.   We saw a lot of wildlife and along the way made enough fresh water to fill our tank.  Tomorrow: shore leave.

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