2023 / #6 Racey Inlet to McMicking

by | Jul 3, 2023 | 2023 Posts

Wednesday, June 28. We didn’t particularly care for the weather forecast, especially the part that said rain, but we decided to travel anyway and started off in almost calm, and dry, conditions with a slight swell from the west. On the way we had to cross Laredo Channel, about 6 miles wide at that point, and by the time we got there the wind had picked up and we had waves with whitecaps right on our beam. We battened down all the hatches, had a ginger snap break and at Karen’s suggestion we altered course to take the waves more off our bow. This eased the motion considerably. Of course, now we weren’t headed to our destination so later we had to change course again, this time putting the waves more off our stern. Our path may have been longer than the direct route but was much more comfortable. And we got much less salt spray over the boat as well. We were happy with that decision.

Our destination for the day was Racey Inlet which is not mentioned in the current Waggoner Guide and has a somewhat dubious writeup in Douglass’s “Exploring the North Coast of British Columbia”. We went to the head of the inlet, called Bone Anchorage, and found a perfect, almost landlocked bay complete with a large creek with waterfalls. The wind there was just a whisper and we were greeted by a sandhill crane that decided to land on our bimini; when Karen emerged from the salon both were freaked out and it flew away while Karen ran for her camera. As the tide fell there were good spots for viewing starfish and other creatures and when the rain finally came we sat in the wheelhouse and watched the ring-billed gulls fishing in front of us.

Thursday, June 29. To celebrate this special day we slept late, enjoyed Karen’s special orange-cranberry bread for breakfast, and drove a couple of easy hours to the head of Chapple Inlet in what was either a very light drizzle or a heavy fog, though visibility was good. This day marked 44 years together and we celebrated as we do most years, by being alone in the wilderness marveling at God’s creations and enjoying life in all its diversity.

After anchoring we piled into the dinghy to explore our little piece of paradise for the day. Along one side of the large basin are high granite walls that drop right into the water. Unfortunately, the tide was fairly high so we didn’t manage to see any sea life. At the head of the basin was a large drying delta with a grassy beach beyond. The high tide was our friend now as we managed to row almost to the beach to inspect the river and the animal trails. We saw bear signs so we had hopes for a spirit bear sighting. Karen found the jaw bone of some kind of creature on the beach and took pictures, hoping to identify it later. Thankfully she resisted the urge to bring it aboard. Dinner was a treat, crab cakes followed by (home/boat made) brownies and peppermint tea. Our special day bore an uncanny resemblance to our other days here in this wilderness and that’s what made it so special.

Friday, June 30. Up-and-down and round-and-round, the trip to Gillen Harbour was done in almost no wind but a confused 3 foot swell, confused because it couldn’t decide what direction it wanted to come from. The lack of wind, gray skies and filtered sun gave the sea that proverbial oily look and we once again had to reach for the ginger cookies.

Gillen Harbour is out there. We headed west through Caamano Sound with great views of the large islands around us, passing occasional islets and rocks along the way. A series of lights mark the hazards of the sound, which suggest deep draft commercial traffic must come this way, or did at one time. Caamano is open to the ocean at that point and it definitely feels like it. At the last islet along our path, claimed by a group of Steller sea lions enjoying the limited sunshine, we turned into an inlet leading to the harbour. If we instead had kept going westward at that point the next landfall would have been Haida Gwaii, 70 miles away.

This was our first visit to Gillen Harbour and it was an amazing place. The harbour itself is large with uniform, modest depths that make for great anchoring, which we immediately did in a nook behind an island. But the shoreline is what struck us most – grassy deltas going off in all directions with forest on the margins. Prime bear habitat we are told, though we didn’t see any sign of bears when we explored. The tide being low, and falling, we walked for a couple of miles over the grass and rocks looking at all the nooks and crannies. The rocks were interesting too, some granitic some sedimentary and some that looked like petrified wood, and all the types were mixed together all over the place. After we returned to the boat and had our hot showers we put out our crab trap, though we have no reason to believe there are crabs here, hung a hummingbird feeder and settled down to wait for the bears, in case there are any. Sometimes our cruising life is all about waiting.

Saturday, July 1. We ended up sharing the Gillen Harbour with three other boats, two of which were small sport fishing boats. Maybe being a long Canada Day weekend had something to do with there being so many boats in such a remote place.

We didn’t have any hummingbirds, see any bears or catch any (legal) crabs. What we did see were lion’s mane jellyfish, lots of them. Not wanting a repeat of our generator blockage we decided to leave and go to McMicking Inlet, one of our very favorite places. Of course, Poseidon wouldn’t let us go without a reminder of who’s boss so we encountered 4 foot swells as we left Gillen but it only lasted 30 minutes or so until we could change course to our next refuge.

McMicking has everything. As you approach the inlet there is a succession of almost tropical white sand beaches. The inlet itself has a number of nooks and crannies to anchor in, each out of sight of other boats. And beyond the trees that line the shore is a terrain that is almost alpine in character: stunted evergreen trees with small tarns nestled among rock outcrops, views in almost every direction and the ability to walk almost anywhere. The navigation problem becomes finding your way back to your starting point where the dinghy is.

We anchored in a small, one boat nook that was the worst of all worlds for anchoring, deep and narrow; when we had let out enough rode to set the anchor we would be in danger of swinging into the sides. So we set a stern tie 200 feet behind us to a tree to hold the boat in the middle of the nook and prevent it from swinging. And we did it all so we could be near the trailhead. After settling in we promptly took a hike, marking the way back, not with bread crumbs but with orange surveyors tape. It worked like a charm and we had a wonderful hike in a unique, pristine wilderness. And we didn’t get lost.

Sunday, July 2. The morning’s tide was very low indeed, one of the lowest of the year. Even though we were anchored and stern tied, and in at least 15 feet of water, the mud flat that appeared not 100 feet behind our boat gave pause for thought. You could look through the clear water and see shallows and reefs all around us – so different than when we arrived the day before at a high tide. We never would have dropped the anchor where we did if the tide had been low at the time – too intimidating.

We seem to be entering a period of windy but beautiful weather. So we decided to stay where we were and go for another hike. The trailhead is next to a small stream with its source at a lake and we were curious to see the lake. So we took the trail to get through the trees into the alpine terrain and walked in the general direction of the lake. Before long it appeared but by this time it was far below us so we decided to continue hiking. There are a great many rock outcrops with spectacular views of the inlet, other boats at anchor, and the ocean beyond. And the spaces between the outcrops are filled with small tarns and marshy fields. With lots of wildflowers. It will probably look very different at the end of a dry summer. We simply must return. In the meantime, more destinations call.

Contact Us

Michael Boyd

Karen Johnson

Recent Posts