2023 / #5 Pruth Bay to Aristazabal Island

by | Jun 27, 2023 | 2023 Posts

Tuesday, June 20. We left Fury Cove on Tuesday to find a 2 foot chop in Fitz Hugh Sound so we headed north to put most of the waves on our stern. Our destination was Pruth Bay.

Pruth is one of Karen’s favorite places. After anchoring, you can park your dinghy at the Hakai Institute dock and walk through their grounds about a half mile to a beach of white sand, open to the Pacific Ocean. And not just one beach but many beaches separated by headlands with well maintained trails connecting most of them, all but two which have to be accessed by going around headlands at low tide. One of the trails has a spur that goes to a lookout well above treeline with a small tarn, natural bonsai trees, unusual wild flowers and a spectacular panorama.

Each of the beaches has its own character. First Beach, where you emerge from the Hakai Institute trail, is a large crescent of fine sand that slopes gently to the water. On this day there was a surf running and some people were actually in the water, body surfing the waves, mostly kids, I think, the water temperature being 55 or so. The trail to Second Beach was lined with 3 inch high bunchberries in bloom and included the trail to the lookout. Second Beach is small and steep with the high tide line covered with round stones, 6-8 inches in diameter. And of course, driftwood on top of that. Third Beach was sloping sand with lots of rock weed washed up at the high tide line. Fourth Beach was covered with shells: mussels, abalone, clams, turbans, and more. Karen had a hard time moving on. Fifth and Sixth Beaches were inaccessible because the tide was too high. Seventh Beach was the most remote so we stopped for a snack and watched eagles riding the winds along the shoreline. The total hike was only 4.7 miles but every bit of it a gem. If only the sun had been shining.

Wednesday, June 21. From Pruth Bay we went to Shearwater for some dock time, battery charging, etc. Shearwater is actually a marine resort, with a lodge/hotel plus a well maintained marina. It has all the usual resort amenities: showers, laundromat, small grocery, marine store (mostly for fishermen), restaurant and a bonus: a boatyard with travel lift. And it has a hike of about two miles through interesting bog type terrain they would call muskeg in Alaska to Eddie Lake; there was no skinny dipping today. The muddy places in the trail had plenty of wolf and coyote prints. We even saw a new bird, a Blue Grouse and chick.

And Shearwater has fellow boaters. When not doing laundry or hiking we spent most of our time socializing. Even though there were only 10 other boats we ended up spending time with most of them. People would stop on their way by our boat to comment on our dinghy, or the design of our Eagle 40. And the stories were fascinating. One person recognized Mischief from our latest article in 48° North and they just happened to be on a boat we had anchored with in Squirrel Cove three weeks earlier. Karen sold some of her cards to the boat across the dock that had been across the dock from us in 2017 at Chatterbox Falls. One man was there to deliver a boat to his 20-something daughter who was going to take it on to Haida Gwaii. And quite by chance we met the two rowers we had seen outside Fury Cove; it turns out they weren’t part of the Race to Alaska, they were just two guys in their 70s who wanted to row from Port Hardy to Ketchikan. The people were so interesting and the conversations so varied I almost felt like it was a speed dating event.

We didn’t eat in the restaurant, though other boaters pronounced it good, and we definitely avoided Thursday night’s Karaoke Night festivities, even though some people were clearly having a whole lot of fun. Being the only full service marina between Port Hardy on Vancouver Island and Prince Rupert on the Alaska border, Shearwater is the place everyone gravitates to when they are cruising the central coast.

Friday, June 23. The last three days have been crazy busy; we were glad to get away. The local forecast for today was showers – instead we got dense fog patches alternating with sun and blue sky. At least the wind was close to the forecasted “light”, so we headed west and entered a little bit of the ocean, followed a large open body of water called Milbanke Sound. In the past this stretch has been too windy and too exposed for our taste but today it was fine with a 1-2 foot chop and very low swell. Unfortunately the fog patches seemed to follow us but our fancy electronics eliminated most of the drama, with autopilot to steer the boat, radar to detect other boats and chart plotter to plan a safe path past the many islands and rocks. We ended up at a small anchorage called Clothes Bay around the corner from the small, first nations village of Klemtu. The only downside of our anchorage was the occasional high speed fishing boats going to and from Klemtu.

Saturday, June 24. Today marked the beginning of our second month of cruising. We thought we would have Clothes Bay all to ourselves but it turned out to be much more interesting. Just as we were going to bed at around 10:00 two large cruising boats heading north anchored in Clothes Bay – it’s still light then. When we peaked out at 6:00 the next morning they were gone. Going to Alaska on a deadline, I suppose. Surprisingly, they were replaced by a tug with a barge carrying 4 or 5 tanker trucks. Since there wasn’t swinging room the tug moved the barge to shore and lowered the loading ramp on the front which, with the tug gently pushing, served to anchor it in place. We weighed anchor and headed north, accompanied for a time by a pair of Dall’s Porpoise playing in our bow wave; always a treat.

There are two passages that can take a boat to the west side of Princess Royal Island, Higgins Passage and Meyers Passage. Higgins is the shorter, more direct route but it has a major problem: the middle of the passage is blocked by a dangerous bar that drys at 5 feet making it too shallow except on really high tides. And there wasn’t going to be a sufficiently high tide when we needed it. So we took Meyers and had 14 feet of water at low tide. There were four kayakers taking the passage with us, just cruising along in the calm water.

So far the day had been easy and the waters calm. We decided we needed to try something different, exploration of the waters of Kitasu Bay. This large bay has a number of inlets indenting its shore that are so remote they were first charted in 2017. Our chart plotter is so old it only has an approximation of the location of the major islands and no soundings. Luckily we had both the paper chart and an iPad with the current chart so we decided to explore them to find the best place to spend the night. The first one we tried was Coward Inlet which has a narrow entrance that required a person on the bow to warn of reefs in the path of the boat. We didn’t care for it so we had to undertake the tricky navigation twice in one day. Cann Inlet was pretty but too deep for convenient anchoring. We ended up at the head of Osment Inlet which is completely land locked but had a mild breeze to keep away the bugs. It was surrounded by older forest with many silver snags. A lovely place worth the stress of getting to it. We are looking forward to more such exploration in the weeks ahead.

Sunday, June 25. The day started with light drizzle and fog but that quickly changed to deep blue skies and intense sunshine. We liked it so much we decided to stay another day. That decision made, our first order of business was putting out a crab trap. We have no idea if there are crabs but the trap is the only way to find out. After that we puttered around till lunch when, the tide being low, we went on a rowing tour of the inlet with the hope we could find some place to land and stretch our legs.

And we succeeded beyond our expectations. Osment Inlet ends in a long, narrow river delta that mostly drys at low tide. We rowed to the end of the water and walked along the shore, much of the time over sand and mud flats covered with clam shells. We continued a half mile back into the head of the delta where multiple creeks enter the salt chuck. You could see the course of the streams and walk among the salt marsh grasses. Along the way we saw the remains of two native fish traps so we know this area was once populated and these were streams thought productive by the local population at the time. There was an eagle in an old snag patiently waiting for the tide to come in.

We continued rowing around our little world and spotted a lone sandhill crane high up on another beach near the remains of an old float house and the floating infrastructure of an aquaculture farm, no longer in operation, just being stored there. Later, back at the boat, a river otter swam by and an osprey soared overhead before making a dive into the water. And the water was crystal clear with a large number of water jellies, a delicate common jellyfish, of all sizes from tiny to 6 inches or so, floating at various depths. Karen definitely thought our extra day stay was well worthwhile. Despite the fact we didn’t catch any crabs we loved being completely alone in our isolated anchorage.

Monday, June 26. Today was one of those “interesting” days boaters are all too familiar with. It started well enough, dead calm and fog at the tops of the trees surrounding our bay. And it was cool, about 57°. So we started the generator, turned on the heat and sat down to breakfast. But after about 20 minutes Karen noticed smoke coming out of the generator so we quickly shut it off and started diagnosing the problem. A brief start showed that the generator was running hot and there was hardly any water flow. Opening the raw water strainer showed clearly what the problem was – I could barely get the basket out it was so clogged with jellyfish. And the hose from the through hull was clogged too. And maybe the generator engine itself. The next hour was spent cleaning the basket and the housing, reinstalling and starting the generator. Running for a few minutes before shutting down and doing it all over again. Eventually the number of jellyfish in the basket declined and the generator was running at normal temperature with pretty much normal water flow; soon, no more jellyfish were discovered. Disaster averted.

By now the fog was beginning to burn off so we decided to head out to our planned destination, Weeteeam Bay on the wild west coast of Aristazabal Island. Getting there requires leaving the protected inside passages and going out into the ocean. The forecast was for winds of 5-15 knots and ocean swells less than 3 feet and that’s exactly what we got, that plus fog. If it didn’t clear off the fog would cause us to turn around and go somewhere else. The west coast of Aristazabal is encumber with islands, rocks and reefs for a distance of up to 10 miles off shore – no place to be in the fog. But our karma must have been good because just as we approached the southern end of the island to start the delicate navigation the fog cleared and we could see the scene around us. And spectacular it was, with islands and reefs in almost every direction and the ocean swell breaking on them as we motored past. Some of the islands had trees and some were just large chucks of rock with birds on the top. We carefully rounded the point and headed northwest up the coast to our destination, Weeteeam Bay. This bay has several possible anchorages; we chose one called Bent Harbour, named after the right angle bend the harbour makes through the many islands that provide its shelter. The surrounding islands are low and provide only limited protection from the wind but no waves or swell can get in the anchorage so we felt quite safe. We closed the day by again checking our strainers for jellyfish and, thankfully, finding them clean.

Tuesday, June 27. Bent Harbour was beautiful in the morning with fog patches rolling in then dissipating. And even though it was perfectly calm we delayed our start till the fog had burned off and we would have a perfect view of the west coast of Aristazabal Island, the better to find the clear passage through the many islands, rocks and reefs that dot the coast to a distance of up to 10 miles offshore. And with only open ocean on the other side. As it turned out, the day was perfect; sunny and mild with a gentle 1-2 foot swell and small wind waves. Karen even managed to relax – no white knuckles today.

The weather forecast is for strong southerly winds tomorrow to we decided to seek shelter in Tate Cove, which is reputed to be excellent in all wind conditions. The only drawback was a fishing lodge in a nearby nook, so we weren’t alone any more. Karen, for one, finds it welcome relief from the unsettling feeling of being “so far out that help might never arrive” that she experienced in Bent Harbour. If the winds materialize we may stay another day rather than venture out into open water. And Tate Cove is renown for its large numbers of eagles so we’ll not be bored.

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