2023 / #7 Weinberg Inlet to Principe Channel

by | Jul 10, 2023 | 2023 Posts

Monday, July 3. Weinberg Inlet is only six miles north of McMicking, still Campania Island, but is completely different in character. Where McMicking had been a single long straight inlet, Weinberg has two entrance passages into a labyrinth of channels formed by ten large islands and numerous rocks and reefs. There are multiple places to anchor, we picked one surrounded by islands and reefs, as far inland as we could get. The winds are forecast to increase and we want as much protection as we can get, both from the wind and from any waves the wind might raise.

During our tour of the inlet we found three boats already anchored there and all of them we had met before. The north coast cruising community is pretty small so you tend to run into the same people, when you see other people at all, that is. After anchoring in a bay with two other boats we took the kayak to the end of a small river delta near us, just to see what was there. Being Campania Island we expected the same kind of terrain as McMicking, dense forest near water with open areas above. We decided to take a look. There was no trail so the first part of the hike was bushwhacking through dense forest with thick underbrush and lots of blow downs. The forest floor was covered with moss, thick moss, that sank down six inches when you stepped in it. It felt kind of like hiking in soft snow. And it was just as tiring. Eventually we reached the open country and had views of the inlet and the many tarns and rock outcrops of the interior. It was very satisfying.

Tuesday, July 4. Gale Warnings in effect. Winds to grow to 35 knots. Time to lay low and trust that our choice of anchorage was a good one. Conditions in our little bay were still ok so we lowered the dinghy, put out a crab trap, and went for another hike. Above us was a bare rocky ridge we could see from our anchored boat. We wanted see the view of our boats and the inlet from there.

We went to a different stream delta to start. This time steep cliffs in the forest blocked a direct approach so we were forced to walk up the river valley, though what we were doing, climbing over fallen trees and through dense undergrowth, didn’t bear much resemblance to walking. Once we had reached the open country it wasn’t hard to see where to go and walk up slopes of heather and moss, avoiding the numerous small tarns to eventually reach the rock. Our geologist friend Ernie identifies the beautiful rock in the center of Campania as foliated Tonalite. Its rough texture was perfect to walk on. Once on the ridge it was wonderful to look down and see our boat in this remote place. And in the other direction we could see a large lake. We had a bite to eat in the shade of the largest tree around, about four feet tall, and enjoyed our hard won success. We returned in much the same way, ending our hike with a row back to the boat. It took three hours to cover the two miles up and down; it felt like a lot more. From the boat, the ridge looks far above but our summit was actually only 300 feet above the water. Great hike.

Wednesday, July 5. Skunked again. When we went to check the crab trap in the morning it was clean. Not even small crabs. Nothing. Clearly, I have no idea how to identify good crabbing locations, other than being told by someone else or reading it in one of our guide books.

The low tide this morning was very low, one of the lowest of the year, and at a great time, about 10:30 in the morning, so we went exploring the sand and mud flats around us. The extra low tide exposed rocks covered with a green algae called Sea Hair, a chartreuse green the same color as the trim on our house. Shocking. Putting on our muck boots we rowed ashore, being careful to tie off the dinghy to a place we could get to when the tide came up, and walked over the flats, lagoons and islands at the end of our little bay. Lots of fun, and so different than at high tide. When we got back to the dinghy the tide had already come in a long way and erased many of our footprints; we were glad we had been careful where we tied it off.

One of our fellow explorers, stuck here like us waiting for decent weather, invited us to their boat for dinner. These social events in the middle of nowhere with people you’ve just met are particularly special. We share a common passion for boating and for this wild and desolate coast. It was great fun.

Thursday, July 6. The gale warning is off the forecast, but it is still plenty windy, even in our anchorage. But not so windy we couldn’t row the dinghy so we put on our muck boots to explore the other parts of our little domain. And as usual, we found something interesting – a tidal lagoon.

This was a classic lagoon, an area of salt water with a narrow entrance and a reef that restricts the flow of water between the lagoon and the larger bay it is connected to. When the tide falls, the high reef and narrow entrance hold back the water of the lagoon so that at low tide the water inside the lagoon is actually at a higher level than the bay outside. In this case we got to the entrance at the time of a very low tide and the lagoon was 4 or 5 feet higher, with rapids running down the rocky outlet stream. And along the sides of this fast moving water were all manner of creatures often found in that other area of fast water, ocean tide pools. There were mussels covering every rock, starfish, different species of anemone, sea cucumbers and even nudibranch. It was a real find and kept Karen occupied for a long time, searching the shallows and pools for creatures. Eventually the rising tide caught up with the water level of the lagoon and the outlet stream became just another opening, until the next really low tide.

We also found another anchored boat and chatted for awhile. We told them about the back country and they were interested enough to attempt a hike. When we saw then later they said they really enjoyed it. In this case, later was a happy hour gathering on another local boat. Now we had four fascinating couples sharing their experiences about boating, among other things. It was wonderful. There was one thing we all agreed on, with the wind expected to fall overnight, tomorrow was a day to travel on northward.

Friday, July 7. Finally. We were on the move again. It was a perfect day for travel; the wind was light, the water was calm, the sun was shining and the slight haze couldn’t really be called fog. All three of our neighbors left before we even got out of bed so they were almost three hours ahead of us by the time we got underway. Boaters seem to agree that starting early is the key to calm waters but we find it impossible to do on a regular basis, creatures of habit that we are. We didn’t see them and, in fact, we saw only two other boats all day, one a small sport fishing boat and one a cruising boat headed in the opposite direction.

Now we finally had the chance to fully charge our batteries. We know from painful experience that batteries don’t do well if they aren’t topped off to 100% on a regular basis. We also ran the watermaker to start making up for some of what we have been using the last couple of weeks; we’re economical but even our 220 gallon tank is not inexhaustible and it will be several weeks more before we can fill our tank from a hose at a dock.

We are cruising up the west side of Pitt Island, which is indented with many inlets, one every 3 miles or so. Some have easy access, you just drive in, and others can be very convoluted with narrow, shallow entrances and rocks to avoid. Some require passage when the current is slack or when the tide is high. We chose one of the easy ones, Patterson Inlet, which has a pleasant bay at its head surrounded by high hills, trees and rocks and provides easy anchoring. We dropped the anchor and settled in, and immediately starting swatting horseflies. The heads of inlets have a downside in mild weather, bugs. Good thing we weren’t planning on shore leave anyway. In the evening the horseflies vanished and the bay filled with dinner-plate sized moon jellies rising toward the surface.

Saturday, July 8. Leaving Patterson was as easy as entering it had been and we continued north to Markle Inlet. Markle is a large inlet with a number of arms but is seldom visited, possibly because it is not mentioned in any of the common guide books. And maybe also because it has an entrance that requires particular care.

The Markle entrance is a narrow channel between two reefs and though it is deep enough, even at low tide, the channel is at a 45 degree angle to the current, which threatens to push your boat sideways into one of the reefs as you pass through. To increase the safety factor we decided to wait until the current was slack and not an issue. We left Patterson with plenty of time and as it turned out we were about an hour early. So we took a tour of the islands near the entrance to burn off a little time. These islands have interesting names, Sine Island, Cosine Island, Tangent Island, but otherwise are like most other islands up here, low and covered with forest. And despite being close to so many trig functions we didn’t feel our navigational prowess had increased.

In one arm of Markle Inlet is a wonderful anchorage: modest depths, plenty of swinging room, good views and places to explore by dinghy. Only the sound of loons broke the silence, that and our oars dipping into the water as we explored our neighborhood. The sun was strong enough for us to put the sun covers on the windows and the light, cool breeze kept the boat from heating up. We had a very pleasant evening. Markle Inlet felt like a very private place.

Sunday, July 9. We slept late, had a lazy breakfast and finally got underway around noon for a tour of the other parts of Markle Inlet before heading to the entrance to go through at the 1:00 slack. The water was calm and there was no trace of current. As we headed out into the main channel we saw a Canadian Coast Guard vessel anchored in a large area labeled Anger Anchorage on the chart. Of course, it’s an anchorage for large vessels only, being 200 feet deep and exposed to the channel winds. But then this was a 260 foot ship.

As we crossed the Principe Channel the wind picked up and with it the waves, with white caps all over. It was obvious we weren’t going far and the first possible refuge was a small nook called Colby Bay so we headed for it and went in. What a welcome and lovely place it was. Not only was it sheltered from the wind and waves of the channel outside but it is a beautiful place, lined with old growth forest of mostly cedars and hills above full of silver snags. After anchoring we explored and found in one arm of the bay an old wooden boat, the Norma Jean we think, up on the shore. Judging from the trees growing from its foredeck, it has probably been there a long time. We can only imagine how it got there, and when.

As we settled in it wasn’t completely calm. The wind direction kept changing as gusts of up to 12 knots blew down the hills into the bay; this set up some small waves that gave us a slight rolling action. But then we saw the waves in the outside channel crashing against the shore at the entrance to Colby Bay and were really glad to be comfortable and secure.

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