Monday, July 10. The wind and waves in Principe Channel continued all day. From our sheltered position in Colby Bay they looked the same as the day before, that is, unpleasantly boisterous, so we decided to stay where we were for another day. A free day means boat chores and we did some: cleaning the boat, polishing the stainless, cleaning the strainers and checking the engine and generator. Of course there’s only so much cleaning we can do without using fresh water but we did what we could. Most of our time, though, was occupied with reading, writing, drawing and, of course, eating. In addition to the usual meals and snacks it was a perfect day for baking brownies.
The guide book says Colby Bay is “protected from northwest gale winds” which is certainly true. But “protected” doesn’t necessarily mean calm. Strong gusts blow down the inlet from a valley to the west and cause the boat to move around, though there is no fetch because the bay is quite small so we felt totally secure. And it was fun to watch the whitecaps in Principe Channel from our secure little hideaway, hoping to see a boat passing by. We actually saw one, a tug towing a very large barge. But no pleasure boats.
Tuesday, July 11. Overnight the wind died, the water in our bay became glassy calm and the channel had only a slight ripple. Time to continue our journey. As we got to the north end of Principe Channel we took a detour to investigate a possible anchorage, Keswar Inlet. There is a large rock right in the middle of the entrance channel that could be a problem but the kelp growing over it was a dead giveaway so we had no difficulty avoiding it. Inside is a large anchorage but even the light northwest breeze blowing at the time seemed to find its way in so I don’t think the shelter is so good in those conditions. We’ll save it for another day.
Now we had a choice to make, either turn right and enter more protected channels or continue into Hecate Strait for another hour and a half to the next passage and a very secluded anchorage called Absalom Cove. Hecate Strait is like the ocean, though worse in one respect. It is more than 50 miles across so you can’t see the other side (like the ocean) but it is shallow. As a result it tends to develop short period swells that can make for uncomfortable traveling. In this case the swells were about 2-3 feet, not so bad, so emboldened by all the ocean travel we had already done this trip we decided on the outside route. And we had no problems, pulling into Absalom Cove to the sound of loons and dropping anchor in a beautiful setting. Time for showers and afternoon tea. Tomorrow will be for exploration by dinghy.
Wednesday, July12. Absalom Cove is such an interesting place we were glad we stayed another day to explore. Right off our anchorage is the entrance to a tidal lagoon. We couldn’t actually see the entrance so we had to hope the morning tide would actually be high enough to cover all the rocks so we could row into the lagoon. A half hour before high water we piled into the dinghy and rowed over to the entrance. There were reefs that defined a narrow, winding entrance and while the rocks in the passage were under water, the kelp attached to the rocks left only a very narrow passageway for our dinghy. I was happy we were rowing as an outboard motor could easily have gotten tangled in the kelp. The lagoon was a fascinating place, surrounded by old growth cedar forest with a stream flowing into it at the head. We rowed there and walked up the stream a ways looking for signs of wildlife. All we saw was a Steller’s jay and a bald eagle soaring high above.
By the time we left the lagoon the tide was falling so we had a bit of current helping us along, but not so much it could be classed as “fun”, perfect according to Karen. Next to explore was a maze of rocks, reefs and islands that filled a large area right near the entrance to our cove. It was fun to wander among them, often through passages that would soon be high and dry, as the tide was falling. We stopped at several beaches and found evidence of civilization in the form of broken bottles and other bits of glass. We weren’t surprised since the area is only a few miles from the First Nations village of Kitkatla which has been in this general location since before European contact. We also saw plenty of clam shells, probably what brought the native peoples to these islands and reefs in the first place.
While the cove is actually quite large it felt remote except for one thing, jet contrails – lots of them. We were apparently directly under a major flight path and all day, particularly the afternoon and evening hours, high flying jets would pass overhead and leave evidence of their passing in the form of linear cloud formations slowly spreading across the sky. The weather is wonderful, cool but sunny with gentle breezes. According to the Prince Rupert forecast that will shortly change, with showers for days on end. Pretty normal for Prince Rupert. But Absalom Cove is our turn-around point so we will shortly be heading south to different, and we hope better, weather. It has taken us seven weeks to get here, we expect it will be a bit less for the homeward journey.
Thursday, July 13. Wouldn’t you know, at 9:00 last night, just when we thought we would have Absalom Cove all to ourselves for a second night, two commercial fish boats pulled in and anchored. Being a large cove they very kindly anchored far enough away that we couldn’t hear their generators. They were gone when we got up in the morning.
We got our anchor on board and pulled out of the cove and drove over to Freeman Passage to continue our journey to Kitkatla Channel. As we approached the narrow stretch of the passage, between a large island and a reef, a lone humpback whale rose out of the water about 50 yards ahead of us, going our direction. So we threw the boat into neutral and glided along with the current, waiting to see what the whale was going to do. We only saw him briefly every three or four minutes but after a few times it became clear the whale was going exactly where we wanted to go, down the middle of the passage, and taking his time about it. So we coasted along with him, now a respectable distance back, and eventually we both made it to the deeper, open waters in Kitkatla Channel, for him to dive deeper and longer and for us to detour around him.
The First Nations village of Kitkatla is the only human presence in the inlet. It’s a prominent community and has grown quite large over the years. We wanted to stop and take a tour but the public dock is difficult, to say the least. It is sandwiched in a tiny cove between reefs and islands and even if we could find room to maneuver, there were already fish boats rafted two deep in every suitable spot. Not surprising since fishing is the predominant industry in Kitkatla.
It was a sunny day and now we had to contend with driving southwards into the glare of the sun and struggling to see logs and shrimp buoys. As we entered wide and deep Petrel Channel the wind from behind us exactly matched our boat speed so it was totally calm on board. For the first time this trip we actually drove from the flybridge. It was nice to be outside, for a change. But a jog in the channel brought the wind from a different direction so we had to move below; it may be summer but the air temperature was only 60 degrees. We passed several potential places to stay in favor of Anger Island. We wanted to try a tight little cove inside Anger Inlet which doesn’t even have a name. But Nameless Cove was a lovely spot, though somewhat deep at 60 feet. For someone with a motorized dinghy it would make a great base for exploring all the nooks and crannies of Anger Inlet; you can’t get to them with a larger boat because of reefs and shallows. It was a delightful choice to spend the night.
Friday, July 14. Overnight it was totally calm and our little cove seemed more than large enough since Mischief didn’t move at all. We were expecting the breeze to build through the day so we made a special effort for an early start, or at least earlier than our usual start. Karen took us out, winding carefully through the reefs and islands that defined the passage and soon we were in the Principe Channel. We settled down to motoring along through calm seas under autopilot.
We saw two other pleasure boats via their AIS signals. They were coming from different places but both going the same direction as us. They were still going south when we turned off so we never found out their destinations. We also saw one commercial boat, a large tug hauling a barge of containers from Alaska to Seattle. It was Ocean Titan from Harbor Island. He was moving at a good clip, about 10 knots, so I suspect the containers were mostly empty. His AIS said he expected to be in Seattle at 2:00 pm on the 16th, a bit over two days. We expect it will take us 6 weeks. But then, he’s dedicated.
Our next goal is to round the south end of Pitt Island but it just seemed too long a trip for one day, so we headed for a closer spot, Monckton Inlet, which has an easy entrance, broad and deep, and an open anchorage at the end with only one drawback, a somewhat shallow, rocky spot just where you would want to drop your anchor. But it wasn’t so shallow it would touch our boat at low tide so we anchored right next to it. Swinging over it won’t be a problem. The tide was high when we came in and as it fell we watched the rocky shoreline get larger and larger. Normally the rocks just drop into the water under the overhanging trees but here there were long sloping ramps of smooth rock leading into the water, like a beach made of rock. It would have been perfect for sunbathing if the bugs hadn’t been out in force, and if the temperature had been a bit warmer than today’s 68°. We explored the entrance to a lagoon at low tide and went ashore at a grassy strip, attracted by a tall plant with a striking red flower – it turned out to be devil’s club. We only took pictures.
Saturday, July 15. Just about dawn it started raining, not hard but steadily. So a quick trip out of bed was called for to close any open windows. Luckily, I had removed the plug in the dinghy the night before so that IF it rained the dinghy wouldn’t fill up with water and overload the davits. It was gray and wet but one of the beauties of a boat like Mischief is that it is driven from the comfort of the pilothouse. That is, once Michael goes out on the foredeck and gets the anchor on board. That meant 15 minutes in the rain in foul weather gear before that comfort could be enjoyed.
We left Monckton Inlet and headed south to round the end of Pitt Island via Otter Passage. As we neared the junction with Otter Passage we sighted a boat hovering. That usually means one of two things, either they are fishing or there are whales in the area. Sure enough, as we neared them we could see two or three fin whales rising to the surface then slowly diving. A bit later we saw a humpback near shore and another off in the distance. This area, called Squally Channel, is known for its whales; there is even a whale research station there.
We continued on toward our destination for the day, Tuwartz Inlet. The inlet is divided into outer and inner inlets separated by Tuwartz Narrows, At the head of the outer inlet a boat was moored to one side like some permanent fixture. He had two anchors and two stern ties to hold him in one place no matter what the wind was doing. Based on the sport fishing boats tied to its side, it appeared to be a unique kind of fishing lodge. Tuwartz Narrows requires some delicate navigation. It is narrow and shallow, 11 feet deep at zero tide. The entrance has a rock in mid channel that is covered when the tide reaches 15 feet and the exit has islands in mid channel that restrict the channel width. As we entered the channel the tide was at 16 feet, so the rock was now a foot under water, but Karen on bow watch saw the rock just in time and we steered around it. I think I can report the rock is actually further west than the chart suggests. After the rock, the islands at the end didn’t pose any problem.
Now we were in the isolated inner inlet. We anchored near the outlet of a lagoon and even though the ebb had started and water was flowing out of the lagoon at about 1 knot, we still managed to row into the lagoon and take a look around before riding the current out. Karen was the voice of caution so we didn’t stay long. We could see the passage would be a rock filled rapids before too long. Later that afternoon we saw the resident osprey catch a fish and spent some time indoors dodging rain showers. It’s nice when it’s warm and sunny but this is northern BC so cool, wet weather is much more normal.
Sunday, July 16. We were awakened early by the sound of rain on the hatches and the stuffy atmosphere in the bedroom due to all the hatches and ports being closed. So we were underway by 8:00 to reach Tuwartz Narrows 30 minutes after low slack, in time to see all the rocks and have a slight current against us on the way out. This time going through was straightforward and Karen didn’t have any excitement on bow watch.
Our next destination required going through another narrows with strong current so we needed to time our arrival for the afternoon slack. That meant anchoring someplace for a few hours till the time was right. Hawk Bay seemed perfect, not too far out of our way, good protection from the prevailing winds and moderate depths for anchoring. On the way, while in Squally Channel we saw whales feeding in front of us. We wanted to choose a route that was well away from them but they proved to be very elusive. They would take a few breaths on the surface then dive for 15 minutes and come up somewhere else. We chose a path behind them and hoped they wouldn’t double back after diving. In any case, we didn’t see them again before entering the bay.
We weighed anchor and headed for our true destination, Farrant Island Lagoon. This isn’t really a lagoon, it just feels that way. Protected by the bulk of Farrant Island, this is a large bay with a narrow entrance, grassy shores (bears maybe?) and lots of room to anchor. It requires passing through Peters Narrows at or about slack, which today was at around 2:00, then carefully negotiating the narrow entrance. It all went according to plan, except for the bears. Being totally secure it was time for the boat chore that most needed doing, changing the generator oil. It went without a hitch and we are ready for the remainder of the trip. Now we ready to really relax, maybe even take a nap. Getting up an hour early took a lot out of us.