Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Big Update Time

8 Volumes just got uploaded! These updates were sent November 8th through the 15th... I just could not get them all up until now due to some technical problems and some minor health issues (take care of those teeth kids). Use this post as a guide to help get you caught up on all the adventure. Volume X Volume XI Volume XII Volume XIII Volume XIV Volume XV Volume XVI Volume XVII - ed (Mikey)

We Say Farewell

Volume XVII: We Say Farewell We were truly enjoying the peaceful beauty of Wallace Island. We still had the longer trail to its north tip to hike, but we needed to mail an important letter. So we unhitched ourselves from Juniata and motored out of Princess Cove. Dave and Marcia needed to position themselves for a comfortable and safe crossing of Juan de Fuca Strait across the border. They needed to exit Canada by the end of October. Fog and a damp chill accompanied our boats for the trip down Trincomali– us to Ganges on Saltspring Island, Juniata to Prevost Island. We decided to rendezvous in Glenthorne Passage, on the northwest corner of Prevost, after Rikki-tikki made a quick trip into town. The long trail would have to wait for another visit. I enjoyed a mug of hot coffee as we motored down the Channel. Remember the photo of me with the rain gear on as we crossed Swartz Bay? At Tod Inlet later that day, I got the bright idea to simply pull out the bottom edges of the boom cover to create a mini rain cover. It's amazing how just this little bit of extra canvas over the wheel keeps the helmsperson from getting soaked. Why we didn't think if this sooner, we have no clue– it was so obvious! We could've kept a lot drier on our long days sitting in the rain as we came up the coast! The sun broke through while we were at Ganges doing email, picking up groceries, mailing letters. Juniata was anchored in Glenthorne waiting for us. We invited them over for afternoon coffee out on deck where we could lounge about soaking up the warmth. Marcia brought over some cold beer. What a pleasant afternoon it turned out to be– sharing the last days of summer/fall cruising in BC with such good friends. We knew it was precious time. We are so very fortunate. We looked out our portlights in the morning hoping for more sun. On an expanse of gray silk floated hazy islands, their tops swathed in cloud. The sun was up there somewhere but it looked like it would not be allowed through for a good while. So Clark put a low-carb sour cream coffee cake (Dana Carpender's recipe) into the oven, and I quietly rowed over to see if Marcia and Dave were awake. They listened to the VHF marine forecast and then joined us. We spent the morning hours together, sharing ideas and plans for next year's cruising, sipping coffee. Then it was time for them to leave. Already? Hugs and best wishes, it's not like forever. Just be safe and call us when you get across. It has been such great fun, a long-awaited journey made and friends met. We'll see you soon out on the water! The only spot of color in a monochrome landscape, Juniata's Erin green canvas fades into the mist as she motors away. Good friends, farewell. A few days later, after we'd moved Rikki-tikki-tavi to his winter grounds at Montague Harbour just a few miles away, we called Dave and Marcia. They were snugly tucked into Juniata's winter home in Port Ludlow, WA. We are now getting settled on Galiano Island where we have been lent a lovely home ashore. We can almost see the dock where Rikki-tikki is moored. We'll be doing some installations aboard– a new high-output alternator to keep the batteries topped up when there is no sun for the solar panels, some more insulation for the chilly weather farther north, and fixing two leaks. Rikki has performed so well, not much is to be done. We made a 1000-mile (we haven't even added it all up yet!) journey up the West Coast with a boat we'd only sailed three times on San Francisco Bay. With little time to practice and no ocean experience, we all did a damned good job, especially Rikki-tikki-tavi. Clark, by no small measure, is an admirable boat builder. He made it all possible. Dave called it a "Bang up job!" As a captain, Clark possesses a calm assurance. He has presence of mind, perseverance, creativity and practicality, a pleasant demeanor and lots of patience. We'll go on cruising together forever, he and I. May the skies always be sunny in your hearts, Nina Clark & Nina

Wallace Island

Volume XVI: Wallace Island We had poked Rikki's nose carefully around the shoals to peek into Princess Cove when we passed Wallace Island back in August. Boats were cheek-to-jowl along the shore, so we kept going, vowing to return when the crowds had vacated. Following Juniata into the cove this late in the season, we were greeted by only two other boats. Dave directed how he wanted us to anchor and tie to Juniata's port side. I took the opportunity to practice maneuvering Rikki in reverse. I'd only done it once before in Smuggler Cove, did just fine too. Needless to say, I am not good at it– yet. Clark and Dave were giving me instructions at the same time. I told them both that it's best if I can be allowed to feel how the prop pushes the boat without the noise in my ears, so be quiet already! I managed to back close to Juniata, then Clark took over and I handed lines to Marcia.. Clark had baked a low-carb zucchini nut bread while we were underway from Russell Island. After we settled in at Princess Cove, Marcia sautéed some of the Tod Inlet apples to go with the zucchini bread. What a yummy topping that made, lots of butter and cinnamon! Toasty aboard Juniata after dinner, Dave discussed fitting his boat with an autopilot like Rikki's. Here we are, snug as bugs in a rug at Princess Cove, Wallace Island. Well, at least one bug... Rikki-tikki looks like a giant water skipper, doesn't he? Next morning, we rowed our twin dinghies to shore for a hike and a haircut for Dave. Marcia put the electric clippers into service, deftly trimming Dave's hair into shape under the canopy of an arbutus tree while I watched rufous-sided towhees and winter wrens in the shrubs. We also spotted an eagle sentinel on the rocks to the west of Conover Cove and a great blue heron. We found these strange jelly things in the water. At first we thought they were damaged pieces of jellyfish washed up to shore. But on closer examination, we saw an attachment foot underneath each creature. Can you identify these odd jellies? They are about a large hand-width across, shaped rather like a wing, and with a tendon-like attachment to the rocks. The trails were wet with the recent rains and huge, orange maple leaves draped themselves over everything like damp paper towels. Wallace Island also has a cruiser memorabilia cabin like the one we found at the Octopus Islands. Hundreds of small driftwood signs, emblazoned with the names of visiting boats, hang in profusion from the ceiling. New arrivals attach their sign to ones already hanging, creating gigantic mobiles inside the cabin. At the far south tip of Wallace, Panther Point, Clark appears to have reached the edge of the world, as the horizon blends away in the fog. There had been quite a successful small resort on the island for many years before it became part of the BC Provincial Parks system. Some cabins and relics are left for visitors to explore. There is a drive to collect funds for restoration of some buildings. We are not the first to pose in and around this old pickup truck! Clark's keen eye found a Rubbermaid-housed geocache under the Jeep. Everything in the box was soaked, so we drained it out and signed in on a waterlogged Post-It® note with our geocaching "handle" and the date. Before we go set out again in the spring, we'll log on to geocaching.com and make a list of geocaches to seek! Geocaching can add another facet of adventure to our already fascinating travels. Wouldn't it be fun to leave a Rikki Trail of geocaches? Anyway, here we are (except for me, the photographer) all smiles on Wallace Island. May the SE gales never blow your way, Clark & Nina

Finlayson Arm to Russell Island

Volume XV: Finlayson Arm to Russell Island Wow! Blue sky! Now that the days are predominately gray, chilly and damp (if not downright soaking wet), we sure appreciate the sun when the clouds open up. Dave thought it would be fun to compare our knotmeter readouts, so as we motored down Squally Reach, which wasn't squally as you can see, he throttled up to six knots and we matched it on our GPS. Our knotmeter is at least a knot slow. It needs cleaning and calibrating, but we knew that. We both slowed to a more fuel-efficient speed (diesel is over a dollar per liter here!), and enjoyed a short trip down Finlayson Arm, deeper into Vancouver Island. This inlet leads to a salmon spawning river at Goldstream. We'd read in the cruising guide that it was great fun to row a dinghy into the stream to watch the salmon in shallow water as they came in to lay eggs. Sea lions were cruising the Arm too, gulping down the large, silvery fish. Flocks of gulls screeched and chased one another as they picked up scraps. Finlayson is deep, bereft of protected niches and so doesn't offer much in the way of anchorages. One dinky dent in the mountainside is named Misery Bay. You get the point– no hiding from squally winds there! The area behind a small island (Sawluctus) near the head was listed in our guide as the best spot to drop a hook. We went in and found some bottom at about forty feet, most of it was about seventy. There were dozens of big, opaque butter-yellow jellies with fringed edges and long, threadlike tentacles. Marcia called them Lion's Mane jellyfish. Juniata elected to anchor across from the small marina, so we put down the Delta near them. Through the binocs, we could read a sign, "Environment Protection Area: No Access." Clark rowed over to the marina to ask how one would get to the Goldstream spawning area since dinghies weren't allowed. "Hike up to the highway, then walk about a mile to the Visitor Center," he was told. More hiking? We were pretty much hiked out after Tod Inlet... Maybe we can visit by car someday. Next day also dawned very placid and mild. We needed some supplies, so Marcia called Gerta on her cellphone and Gerta said she could drive us where we needed to go. Rikki-tikki could take the mooring at the Deep Cove villa and she'd be waiting. We weighed anchor and headed north. I went below for a quick shower and washed my hair. As we secured to the buoy, Juniata passed by on the way to Russell Island Marine Park. This photo is looking out from the villa across Satellite Channel, Saanich Inlet, toward Sansum Narrows. With Gerta at the wheel, we made a good day of it– collecting boat parts, groceries, and visitor info like ferry and bus schedules. We treated her to lunch at the fabulous Fish On Fifth in Sidney. Thanks, Gerta! Dave and Marcia were waiting for us, tucked behind little Russell Island, which is at the entrance to Fulford Harbor on Saltspring Island. Russell Island was settled by immigrants from Hawai'i who were brought here to work on the Canadian railway. As we anchored, a very strange-looking catamaran came motoring toward us from the Saltspring shore. Its hulls were bright yellow and lashed together with two spar sections, an outboard mounted between. It was cold-molded construction and of course we asked questions, as they did of us. Turns out this was their first tryout in the water after the launch. Phillipe and Guy hope to offer nature tours under oar power, though they will step a mast once the akas and tramps are in place. We'd love to see the finished boat. They invited us to stop at their place anytime for a visit. We wish them well. The four of us walked the short (and thankfully level) trail around the island, examined the remnants of the settlements and watched the birds. We decided to move on to Wallace Island, a Marine Park in Trincomali Channel on the opposite side of Saltspring Island. When we pulled up the Delta, this very large sunflower star was firmly gripped to the stock and chain. It was tough to pry loose and left numerous sucker feet behind. Sorry, we hope they grow back quickly! At a relaxed pace, we followed Dave and Marcia to Princess Cove, mostly under power. Clark baked a low-carb zucchini nut bread with cranberries. A small breeze picked up in Trincomali and we rolled out the jib for a bit. The late October sun felt good on our faces. Good friends, good weather, great cruising! May the sun brighten your days, Clark & Nina

The Butchart Gardens

Volume XIV: The Butchart Gardens From the dinghy dock in Tod Inlet, we walked the short trail to The Butchart Gardens main entrance. After gulping hard at the fees (thankfully somewhat lower this time of year) we spent hours walking along the paths at the leisurely pace admiring the warm Fall colors, myriad textures and stunning dahlias, in full bloom despite the cooler temps. Even in the chill and damp, it was all serenely and astonishingly beautiful. The grayness of the day didn't dull the colors for the camera in the least. Workers were busy setting out thousands of plants for the winter season. Holiday lighting displays begin December 1st. This is the main garden where the quarry pit used to be... You can climb the stairs to the top of the vine-covered rock spire in the center. Please stay on the paved path! Clark taking video at the entrance to the Japanese garden. An opening in the hedge has been cut to allow viewing into Butchart Cove, which has a back gate through the Japanese Garden. When you arrive and call them on the intercom, an employee comes to collect your money and let you in. Boats crowd in here during the summer months. It's empty this time of year. Tour buses still arrive at the main gate with loads of tourists– we were lucky that crowds were light. Just one of the varieties of spectacular dahlias at Butchart Gardens, this spiky bloom is dripping with rain. Fountains dance in the large pond, The Pit itself. They are lit at night. There are also fireworks on Saturday nights during the summer (just can imagine the crush of boats!). We bought passes good for a year, so we'll be back. Our legs walked out for awhile, late the next morning Juniata untied the lines holding Rikki-tikki alongside, cranked up their chain and anchor, and we both motored over the glassy waters of Finlayson Arm to Goldstream. We were hoping to see spawning salmon! Smooth seas, Clark & Nina

Tsehum Harbor to Tod Inlet

Volume XIII: Tsehum Harbor to Tod Inlet On October 15th, Rikki-tikki-tavi and Juniata, each with his or her respective crew aboard, joined once again at Tsehum Harbour on the Saanich Peninsula of Vancouver Island. Rikki-tikki, I guess one could say, closed the circle, crossing the track he created upon entering Canada at Tsehum on August 4th. We were excitedly looking forward to some one-on-one time with Dave and Marcia, visiting and sharing experiences, before they had to leave Canada and we would tie Rikki to the dock in Montague Harbour. The weather was pleasant and partly sunny. We filled up the diesel tank and the water tanks at Van Isle Marina shortly before Juniata came in from Victoria to anchor nearby. We loaded two-plus months' worth of accumulated garbage into Darzee and took it to the marina compactor for proper disposal. Most of the islands do not have garbage disposal (at least not for free) so we consolidated our trash as we cruised and stored it in an ama. We recycled our glass and cans. That done, we visited with Dave and Marcia in Juniata's cockpit, soaking up the sun. As hunger pangs struck, we moved over to Rikki-tikki for a "dinner" of cheeses and smoked shellfish. It was threatening rain as Juniata went into the yacht club dock next morning. We motored over in Darzee that afternoon. Gerta arrived in her BMW to take us for a special dinner at a lovely shoreside villa on Deep Cove where she was housesitting. Everyone headed immediately for the big kitchen where Clark fell in love– with the stove. He was in seventh heaven, in ecstasy, cooking on an Aga. If that Aga didn't weigh nearly as much as Rikki-tikki himself, I'm sure Clark would figure out how to get one aboard! He was having so much fun– roasting, baking, sautéing. He even had time to throw together a beautiful tray of appetizers. I found a piano in the living room and plunked out a few classical pieces. Luckily for those listeners in the kitchen, the music scores available for me to sight-read were simple. It could've been ugly otherwise. I hadn't touched the keys in decades. I even enjoyed the music myself! Returning to Rikki just at dark, we started up our diesel heater to warm the boat but sleep was hard to come by. The wind and waves bumped and jostled us all night. It rained buckets. Gusts of wind shook loose glops of water from the rigging, which plummeted to the deck above our heads in unpredictable thumps. Our brains seem able to tune out steady rain, but not this random pelting. Each time we started to drift into dreamland, the noise would startle us awake. The wind calmed by morning but the day started out chilly, foggy and drizzly. The first time we were at Tsehum, we saw a crab boat pulling lines of traps out from under the dozens of anchored boats. We didn't see any floats marking the cables, each with several metal mesh traps attached. In the US each trap must have a float. In Canada, a crabber is required only one at each end of the cable connecting up to ten traps. When we told people that crabtraps were on all over the bottom of Tsehum harbor, nobody believed us. Well, the crab boat was out again! He pulled at least four lines of traps, harvesting crabs, and resetting traps under the anchorage. We wondered how many boats tangle their anchor in a trap or snag a cable. There are a lot of traps down there! When the crab boat was pulling a line of traps next to Rikki-tikki, I took several photos. Here's oneÐ taken through our aft settee window. There is an undersized crab teetering on the gunwale. Late morning, Rikki followed Juniata out of Tsehum, zigzagged through John Passage between Coal and Goudge Islands, down Colburne Passage, and across the very heavily trafficked Swartz Bay BC Ferries Terminals. The fog was pretty thick so we had turned on the radar. Clark watched the screen for approaching ferries as I steered Rikki-tikki at a brisk pace. There are lanes converging from three different directions! Just as we cleared the last terminal, a big Tsawwassen ferry loomed out of the fog from Gosse Passage to cross behind us. It slowly turned a 180û to place the car deck stern toward the terminal. Whew! We arrived in Tod Inlet about one-thirty and side-tied with Juniata, the only boats save a large trawler liveaboard that was here in August too. It was good to get out and walk the trails. We scrounged a few late blackberries and filled our pockets with apples, knocked out of the trees in an abandoned orchard. We discovered a lovely fern-lined canyon with tress upholstered in moss. Hikers had placed found items along the retaining wall– leather soles from old shoes, broken crockery, rusty iron farms tools, bottles and odd bits from the little factory-town settlement that was here when the quarry was active. The quarry, of course, became the famous Butchart Gardens, which is easily visited from Tod Inlet, either by dinghy from Butchart Cove at the entrance to Tod Inlet or by short trail from the head of Tod Inlet. Juniata and Rikki-tikki-tavi anchored together in Tod Inlet– makes visiting boat-to-boat very easy. The wide, maple leaf strewn path through the BC Park around Tod Inlet is used by locals for biking, walking the dog, and running. The residents are fortunate to have such a beautiful area just blocks away from their homes. We cruisers are likewise grateful for the easy access to stretch our legs and even catch a bus, if we want, to downtown Victoria! Needing a few provisions, we asked if there was a grocery within walking distance. An enthusiastic, helpful, friendly young man gave us directions, said it was an easy 25-minute route. Trudging along the road to Brentwood for twice that long, we finally found the store. Stretching our legs is one thing, but walking nearly two hours roundtrip for a few groceries is a bit much! I mean, do we really need coffee that badly? If another enthusiastic, helpful, friendly YOUNG person estimated walking time, we vowed to double it, then decide if we were up to it! Dave, Marcia, Clark and I gratefully lowered ourselves and our groceries into our dinghies and rowed out to our little floating homes, where we could just sit. And sit. Such is life aboard a boat! May all trails and roads be level, Clark & Nina

Silva Bay & Pirates Cove

Volume XII: Silva Bay & Pirates Cove This hitchhiking vamp at the end of the fuel dock sets Page's apart from the other marinas in Silva Bay. Inside the little office and bookstore are more whimsical sculptures and crafts from local artists. A homey, friendly spot, where Ted & Phyllis will assist in finding the perfect cruising guide or book of poetry for your reading pleasure. They told us that the store down the way featured homemade sausages and European cheeses, so we made fast tracks there under oar power. It's a very small grocery but packed with a very wide selection of meats, cheeses and those sausages, even salmon sausages! We brought our bootie back to Rikki-tikki and tried some for dinner. The Stilton cheese with apricot was very good as dessert. As I slid into the settee next morning with my coffee, I heard crunching noises outside under the window where Darzee was tied. Two otters were in the dinghy, munching loudly on fish. I reached for my camera. Otters are pure perpetual motiion... they leaped out of the dinghy just as I raised the camera of course. We've had otters in the dinghy before – twice at Rebecca Spit – but always night visits by unseen, messy otters. The scraps from their snacks had already attracted hordes of flies by morning. Those otters required cleaning up after. The otter family of four at Silva Bay were thankfully fastidious and left no evidence of their meals. We asked about internet access at Page's and were directed to the restaurant/pub above the Silva Bay Marina. No luck. The young man in the marina office offered to let us plug into the office ethernet, so we brought our iBook over next day and did email while he was on the docks attending to visiting sailboats. An unusual number for this time of year seemed to be arriving. We later learned that this was three-day Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Even with the rain and windy conditions, it seemed to us that a group of Sceptre 41s had made the trip across the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver for a rendezvous. This is only our assumption based on the fact that they were one-design and all tied up together. It's funny... we'd never heard of the Sceptre 41 until we got to the Octopus Islands. John and Lynda's boat was of this Canadian design, although he bought it as a hull and deck, finishing the interior and outfitting himself. What a beauty! Perfect in every detail, with fine craftsmanship and thoughtful layout, their Sceptre 41 looked like it had just come, brand new, from a boat show. We were astonished to learn that they had cruised BC aboard for eight seasons! After seeing their lovely boat, we realized that another boat we'd seen several times at different anchorages was also a Sceptre 41. John told us there were only fifty made, so it was surprising to see four others arrive in Silva Bay. Of the fifty, we've already seen six. As we returned to Rikki-tikki, we saw that all four otters were on the stern deck, running up and down our convenient transom steps with their slimy catch. We crossed our fingers that we'd secured the aft window, which we usually leave vented and hanging open because it's rainproof. We had chicken thawing on the counter... what a mess they would be making inside! Their neatness in the dinghy wouldn't prevail inside Rikki, if they got in. Before I could get good photos, they were off in a streak of shiny brown wetness. Thankfully, the window was cinched down and we vowed never to leave Rikki with it open in otter country. We left after breakfast next day to reach Gabriola Passage at high slack. As we approached the pass, we saw a large power boat sitting sideways across the channel. He moved aside as we neared, but suddenly throttled up to cross our bow. As he went by, we noticed a very small dive flag and a diver in a drysuit standing aft. Looking around, we spotted the bubbles of at least one diver submerged near shore. We were surprised that the dive boat didn't stay between vessel traffic (us) and its divers. He should have. We remembered seeing a brochure in the marina office that offered dive tours in Gabriola Passage. Diving is only possible at slack current, but we didn't immediately connect the sideways boat with diving until we saw the diver on board. Their dive flag was way too small to be seen from any distance. Pirates Cove, a small BC Marine Park, on De Courcy Island, was a place we'd visited back in August 1993, during a heatwave. Back then we were aboard a 32-foot catamaran captained by Roy Mills, and accompanied by our friends, Bob and Peggy. Bob is the crewperson who so skillfully steered Rikki-tikki through the maelstrom of our first night out from San Francisco, May 26th. This October 2005 visit, the weather was very much cooler and wetter, but the small bay was certainly a whole lot less crowded! We walked all the park trails, rowed Darzee around the small bay, and got to know Luis and Betty on their self-built steel Dutch-design sailboat. A group of young kayakers was camping in tents on the point, apparently unfazed by the rain. As we sat in the cockpit drinking our afternoon coffee, a very nice, large sailboat of about 55' approached the entrance range-marker. Pirates Cove has a tricky channel with shoals either side. Cruising guides give clear instructions, the charts show the proper channel, and there are red and green markers. The sailboat was on course for avoiding the long shoal extending out from the point, but instead of turning sharply to port to enter the channel between the markers, the skipper brought the boat close in to shore and proceeded to drive right over the rocks! I stood up, my heart in my throat for them, and expected to hear fiberglass crunching on rock any second. Luckily for them, it was a very high tide and the boat didn't ground. I told Clark we should dinghy over when they got anchored to advise them of their mistake, so they wouldn't risk damaging their bottom on the way out. We didn't get the chance! They made a quick U-turn around an anchored boat from Australia and headed back out the way they came! "NO!" I yelled. They looked toward us. "Keep the red buoy to port on your way out!" I called, as loudly as I could to be heard over their engine. All aboard smiled and waved, then continued over the rocks, even closer to shore than before! Yikes! We were just about to turn on the VHF and hail them before it was too late, when a little sport boat zoomed out from the resident docks blowing their horn and yelling, "Keep the red buoy to port!" They raced over to the sailboat, repeating the warning. The sailboat continued to inch forward. What were they thinking? Surely they were aware of their shallow depth sounder readings. Finally, the little motor boat reached the side of the sailboat. The sailors finally turned to pay attention to the repeated warning, asking "Keep the red buoy to port?" The little boat turned around, waited for the big sailboat to back away from the shoal, then showed them the proper way out. We were left shaking our heads. If the tide hadn't been extremely high... Even the float planes use the marked channel. At least it wasn't raining when we left Pirates Cove and motored down Trincomali Channel toward Montague Harbour on Galiano Island. A brisk south wind was blowing on our nose, and the water was lumpy. We'd arranged for Rikki-tikki to have dock space at Montague, November through January. The harbormaster was waiting for us to sign documents and pay the modest moorage fee. We anchored out in the bay, rowed to the dock and left a voicemail from the pay phone. As we returned to Rikki, the sun came out and a rainbow appeared over the marina and harbor. Perhaps a good omen? Turning away from the rainbow to face the setting sun, we saw that this apparition of a shark had formed inside a cloud. Should we be worried? Fortuitously, a comfortable place ashore has been made available on Galiano. My aunt offered her lovely house for our use while Rikki is tied to the dock. Its deck overlooks the BC Marine Park beach. It's a bit of a hike up the road to the property, but we plan on having our car brought up to BC. We'll be able to get some larger sewing projects done indoors, while also doing some small home repair for auntie. Having a carpenter in the house for a few months was one of the perks for her. The biggest advantage is ours though, and we send our heartfelt gratitude. We are looking forward to being on Galiano Island and getting to know BC a bit better by car. Another low was forecast to bring SE gales, so we took Rikki to Ganges for groceries, doing email at the Saltspring public library. Then we took refuge in the small inlet called Glenthorne Passage on Prevost Island, just across the way. We'd be meeting up with Dave and Marcia on Juniata in a few days. Fair winds, Clark & Nina

Volume XI : Sturt & Smuggler

The cruising guide said to anchor in Caesar Cove, a little bight off the south arm of Sturt Bay, but it looked way too tight. A private dock farther in was stacked double-deep with fishing boats and they needed room to get in and out. We like to stay out of the way. There was a little marina, but we try to avoid paying dock fees. The bay itself was very deep (82 feet), so we nosed around into its head looking for shallower water. The tide was going to drop only five feet overnight so no worries there. We wanted to swing with the winds when they came because the rocky ledges around the bay looked hazardous. The spot we chose to drop the anchor was fifty-five feet deep, right at the entrance to the north arm of the bay, with a good bit of scope. We felt pretty sure no other cruising boats would be coming in to impede our swing.

We needed coffee, so we slid Darzee into the water and Clark rowed over to the docks. Hopefully, the store wouldn't be too much of a hike up the hill. Asking directions of a woman walking there, Clark scored a ride. The woman, from a sailboat on the transient dock, said she was on her way there for beer and steaks. The sun was out and they were going to barbeque. While Clark was at the store, a large freight boat came into the bay. "Marine Link Tours" and an 800-number in big block letters was painted on its square deck house. We'd seen the same boat at Tenedos Bay on September 8th. It pushed up to a gravel road at the bank behind Rikki-tikki, dropped a loading ramp, and started carting off sacks of heavy cargo with a forklift. Passengers up top observed the goings-on. We learned that this vessel offers paying customers a unique way to see BC as it picks up and delivers cargo throughout inaccessible islands and shoreline villages. Through the binocs I could see Clark back on the dock talking to the folks at the boat. I'd noticed their windvane and apparently he had too, so he was checking it out.

As Clark started back to Rikki-tikki in Darzee, a little orange-and-black tug pulling a similarly painted barge came steaming around the corner. I wondered where he was headed with that barge and how would he control it within the confines of the bay. I called Clark on the walkie-talkie as he began to row out to Rikki. "Do you see that barge coming in? Where do you suppose he's going to go?" The radio must've garbled my question because Clark thought I was talking about the freight boat that was already situated at the dock and so he continued rowing... right out in front of the tug! From his position behind the breakwater, Clark couldn't see the tug until he'd got out in front of it. The tug pulled over to the side of the barge and powered hard in reverse to take way off the barge. I suppose he would've been doing this anyway even without my husband rowing a little plastic dinghy across his path, but I was a bit worried. Barges don't have brakes.

Clark started paddling much faster when he finally caught sight of the barge as it came into the small bay under its own momentum. The tug lead the barge close in past the transient dock and directly into the "anchorage" of Caesar Cove, crossing right over the spot we'd decided NOT to drop anchor. Good choice. As the barge urged its mass toward the shore behind the Marine Link boat, the tug suddenly dropped the tow cable and zoomed out of its way. The skipper churned up white water with the tug's big engine, bringing its rubber-padded bow against the flanks of the barge. He deftly nudged the hulk to lie alongside a row of steel pilings. Quite impressive. I was thankful to be parked safely away from big boats moving about. As the sun settled behind Texada Island, our view across Malaspina Strait to the BC mainland became a monochromatic composition in blue.
  Next morning, October 1st, we hoisted the Delta anchor and motored out of Sturt Bay, destined for Smuggler Cove, a popular BC Marine Park on the Sechelt Peninsula. We were hoping it would give Rikki good protection from more SE gales forecast for the 2nd, 4th, and 5th. The thunderheads were building high and mighty over Texada and the mainland, the sun hardening the edges and throwing glittering shards of light in our eyes. Smuggler Cove caution: "Proceed at dead-slow and post alert bow lookouts." Encumbered by rocks, reefs, shoals and narrow passages, this tiny small craft stopover, we are told, can harbor dozens of cruising boats during peak summer months. I was just relieved there was nobody else around! Entering the cove was not difficult– we took the advice of "Exploring the South Coast of British Columbia" authors, the Douglasses, and avoided the hazards. The tiny first basin was too open to the SE for our comfort, the second not much better or much bigger. The inner basin, with its extremely narrow, shallow passage, offered the most shelter, so we went in – very slowly – with me posted as the alert lookout, taking photos at the same time. It was a low tide but there was eleven feet of water, leaving seven under Rikki's keelson.

The lagoon inside was larger than we expected and, since we had the entire place to ourselves, we anchored in the middle in eighteen feet of water. We started noticing details as we settled in. There were dozens of orange rings drilled into the rock along rocky shore for use as stern line anchor points. A lot more rings revealed themselves as we rowed Darzee along the edges of the two outer basins, many of these seemed to be placed much too close to the numerous shoal areas. We were left questioning whether anyone would actually use them. We couldn't imagine the Cove harboring as many boats as there were rings! While we enjoyed hanging on anchor there for six nights, only three boats ventured into the inner basin and all three turned right around and went back out. Only four sailboats anchored in the outer basins overnight, usually only one at a time, and they were always out of our view except for the tip of their masts. We were secluded in our watery haven, visited only by an otter and two pair of loons, the resident belted kingfishers, a large pileated woodpecker, an osprey, the usual fleet of common mergansers and flocks of lovely varied thrushes. We heard voices. At the head of the lagoon, a group of hikers stopped to read a marker. There was a trail! Finally, a place to get off the boat and walk. But first things first, before the gale hit, we put the motor on Darzee and motored over to Secret Cove, a mile to the north. We hoped to find a grocery store for eggs and cream, but the marinas looked shuttered for the season. At the Jolly Roger, a man on the docks was carrying boat cushions up to his van, preparing to leave his sailboat closed up for winter. We asked if there was a grocery. He said the closest was five miles away in Halfmoon Bay. Jans offered to drive us there, so we hopped into the van with the cushions and sailbags. The Halfmoon Bay Grocery is a historic artifact of a building, whose owner is from Pleasanton, CA. We've met numerous folks from the States, enjoying a quieter life here in BC. We bought a bottle of bubbly to celebrate our anniversary.

Back at the Jolly Roger, we made a few calls to home on the pay phone. It rained a lot at Smuggler Cove, especially on the 6th. The winds, when they arrived, went right over us through the top of the trees, leaving us unflustered. We walked the mossy, bouldered trails along the point to overlook Welcome Passage, Malaspina Strait, and Thormaby Island with its sandy beaches. This photo of the entrance to Smuggler Cove was taken at high tide, when the shoals and rocks are most hidden. Notice the blue sky and flat water? Environment Canada forecast gale winds across the Strait of Georgia this day, so we stayed put. They gave us a lovely day to stretch our legs while enjoying the sun. Over the next few days, we twice walked the longer trail, which had a boardwalk over wetlands and passed through dense forest, even extending our walk out toward Fishermans Cove along the road. We never got there but we got in some good exercise. The bog trail was truly wonderful. It went through several habitats and environments and offered sightings of winter wren (I always pack the small binocs now) and some red mushrooms with white spots. A pair of hikers with whom we got to chatting told us what they were, but we've forgotten. As we arrived at the road, a group of school children was trundling out of cars and vans with their teachers for an excursion down the trail. Smuggler Cove was once the home of "King of the Smugglers". It was once profitable to assist Chinese laborers across the border into the US. The trail markers also tell of the local Indians and how they used the plants and resources of the area to live. It's a good place for a field trip. We should've tagged along and learned even more about the Cove and its history. We motored over to Secret Cove again, for a more thorough exploration of its shores– and five gallons of water. We went up and down each arm of the large harbor, gawking at some impressive homes, one of which set Clark's urge to build into high gear. It was a particularly well-balanced neo-craftsman style, situated in the trees with a private dock. I agreed that the design was both impressive and comfortable-looking. We gazed at it for many minutes. Another, on a picturesque point just across from Secret Cove Marina, was in the final stages of completion. It looked as though it could be an Architectural Digest feature home, with its contemporary lines, expansive angular rock and slate entry, wide overhangs and large windows. A bit too commercial-looking for our taste, but admirable.

We listened several times a day to the marine forecast. The day we chose to leave for Silva Bay, about thirty miles across Georgia Strait on Gabriola Island, the voices crackling over the VHF predicted winds of less than ten knots. We experienced winds more in the 15-18 knot range. The "automated reports" claimed the "combined wind wave and swell height" at Halibut Bank to be "zero decimal three meters". As we passed by The Bank, we were splashing though waves obviously more than a meter high, not counting the SE swell! It was bumpy! We rolled out the jib and fell off the wind to pick up some speed, which we could do because the military activity zone "Whiskey Golf" was not active that day. It was "clear for transit". Crossing on this angle meant that when we reached Entrance Island, we'd have to motor directly into the wind for the last couple of miles. But, hey, we did that all the way up the West Coast, so nothing new there. Silva Bay was more busy and open to weather than we had become accustomed to but we anchored in front of Page's Marina to wait for another SE gale to pass over. We'd also have to time our transit through the rapids at Gabriola Passage, out of the Strait of Georgia and into Trincomali Channel. We were back in the Gulf Islands.

Fair winds, Clark & Nina

The Gorge

Volume X: The Gorge "The Gorge", a half-mile long, 200-foot wide passage with nearly vertical walls, frames the nearly centered entrance to a land-locked harbor, not surprisingly named Gorge Harbour. It is an impressive, protecting door, with up to a four knot current when the tide is running. As we slid by the high west wall, we failed to spot the remnants of Indian rock paintings that decorate it. On the east, the boulders are said to have formed burial caverns. SE gales were forecast, so we turned left once inside the harbor to find a spot for a snug stern-tie along the south shore. Gorge Harbour Resort was just across from where we anchored, looking very unprotected along the north shore, though there were only three boats in the slips. Music was blaring across the water as we rowed over. It wasn't from the restaurant, but from a stereo system in a house right next door, all doors and windows open. Several young people were lounging in chairs on the deck. It looked like a frat house party. We bought some wine at the tiny resort store. A passerby told us that the restaurant served excellent food. The creative selections on the menu sounded delicious, but the high prices (and the loud music) sent us paddling back to Rikki-tikki. We wondered how the restaurant proprietors felt about their neighbors. The breeze started to pick up and a small sailboat with no engine came in, also seeking shelter. The skipper, alone, worked like the devil attempting to reach the marina docks. He tacked and jibed, back and forth, again and again, but he was unable to get close enough to safely tie up and there was nobody to help. Just before it got too dark to see, he fell off downwind past the marina where he threw out an anchor. The wind died away and we slept well tucked into our little niche of rocky shore. As the sky lightened next morning, I awoke and peeked out the portlight on my side of the bed. The sky was lit up all pink and violet, with golden highlights, colors displayed on a plethora of wind-driven clouds, clouds piling up, lines of stratus clouds. I leaped out of bed and pulled on my fleece, grabbed my Lumix FZ20 and was out on the deck snapping photos lickety-split. As a rule, I don't open my eyes at dawn or leap out of bed for anything, even Clark's coffee, so this sky had to be something special. When I got out on deck, it looked like this... The sky put on a marvelous show as our side of Earth turned slowly toward the sun's brilliance. I took many photos, but these capture two of the infinite faces one sunrise can show. It was A Most Spectacular Sunrise! But, the entire time we were ooohing and aaahing at the sun's glorious introduction to our day, the sailor's ditty, "Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning," was ringing in our ears. It didn't take long for the front of clouds to completely obscure the sun once again. Before we finished breakfast, the wind started up again, this time like it wasn't going to let up for quite a while. Whooshing toward Rikki-tikki from the NE, instead of SE, it raised a significantly uncomfortable chop on its way across the harbor. Rikki was being pushed sideways by the gusts, splashing up and down on the building waves. We knew it would only get worse, so we decided to move. We started the engine, double-tied Darzee, who was between the hulls, then Clark released the sternline and rolled it in as fast as he could. His stern now free, and Clark still rolling in line, Rikki swung toward the rocky shore. I used the engine to hold position, trying not to drive over the anchor. With the sternline finally secured, Clark went forward to raise the Delta. We got away clean and headed into the wind, making a beeline for the east side of the bay. We passed by The Gorge to look for an area where the wind wasn't stirring up the water. Inside a rocky peninsula, we spotted a quiet little bight and went in for a look. The water was forty-two feet deep with lots of room to let out enough scope and let Rikki swing unfettered. We crossed our fingers that this would prove to be a great spot. It did– as the winds gusted above, they barely ruffled Rikki-tikki's fur. It rained and blew, but we felt safe. Between rain showers, we rowed Darzee into the lagoon behind us to see what we could see. It was an oyster lease area and there were grids of wire nets stapled to the gravel bottom. A small stream flowed into the saltwater, creating perfect conditions for the bivalves, though there weren't many. Perhaps they'd been harvested. Out in the bay, we saw quite a few aquaculture floats, which were attended by yellow rain-slickered men in aluminum runabouts. One fellow must've been the harbor go-between (or busy-body) because he roared back and forth constantly, at top speed, from one end of the harbor to the other, all day long. After weeks of quiet anchorages, the noise was unsettling. Even from our new spot far away from the Resort, we could hear the on-going party music echoing across the water. A small, unfinished cabin enjoyed a great location on the promontory. I spotted three mergansers that looked different from the common ones we saw at nearly every anchorage. They were hooded mergansers! An eagle perched on a tree above and a beautiful loon entertained us as he dived for fish beside the boat. Our little inlet was lovely, its edges framed by handsomely arranged boulders, some of which were black obsidian. The mist-shrouded conifers and arbutus created a curtain– we could almost ignore the cacophony outside. Finally, the storm moved on, leaving only stillness, so we weighed anchor. The Gorge, mirrored perfectly in the gray morning light, framed our course down Malaspina Strait toward Texada Island. With only a day or two before the next front, this time with forecast NE winds, we thought Sturt Bay might be a good place to hide. Smooth seas, Clark & Nina

Monday, October 31, 2005

Back to The Spit

Volume IX: Back to The Spit As you remember, way back when we last wrote, we were headed for Surge Narrows, a skinny rapids (197 feet wide at its minimum) that must be navigated only at or near slack water, the duration of which varies from five to eleven minutes. Not very long! We timed our arrival perfectly and transited easily with no other boats to contend with in the confined channel. We can imagine how stressful a transit might become when there are many boats wanting to go through at the same time. The Narrows deserves respect. We were aware of a boat that got hung up on Tusko Rock this summer, so we were very cautious. Mr. Tides, a tide and current software for Macintosh, helped us plan our timing. GPSNavX, our computer charting software, plotted our course on the BSB chart with coordinates from our Garmin 48 in real time. We send our kudos and thanks to Rich, the author of GPSNavX, and to August, the author of Mr. Tides, for their fabulous software! The day was mostly sunny with a faint breeze, not enough to sail until we reached the end of Hoskyn Channel when we rolled out the jib briefly to take advantage of a more defined flow of air of 20 knots from the NW. It's either no wind or a lot of wind around BC! We were considering seeking shelter in Village Bay to escape the wind, but when we turned the corner at The Spit, we could see that there was smooth water inside its arm of scrubby trees. Rebecca Spit was vacant of boats so we chose the "prime view" anchoring spot at the opening in The Spit– looking east across the northern reaches of the Strait of Georgia to the layers of mountains on the mainland. We hanged the bow anchor to our 33-pound Delta and stowed the Northill. The Northill is a great anchor– lightweight, easy to set, and it has never dragged. It wrapped up a loop of the rode a few times, so we started using a ten pound lead ball as an additional weight on the rode to increase the catenary. At Von Donop we lazily tippy-toed around our anchor and, even with the extra weight, the Northill came up so entangled in the rode and chain that it looked like a Chinese string puzzle! We decided to trust it only when we stern-tied ashore. When Rikki-tikki would be swinging in different directions with the changing tide and winds, the Delta could be trusted to hold without fouling and we would sleep better. We had the afternoon open (what else is new?) so we launched Darzee and motored over to Heriot Bay for groceries and wireless internet down in the Inn's laundry room while running a load. Another boat down from the Octopus Islands was at the marina. He latter came to The Spit and anchored real close to us (what else is new!?), but Clark warned him that we had a lot of scope out so he pulled a line to a log ashore and backed away. I managed to get a photo of the view before he arrived and planted himself in the middle of it. We spotted a little fleet of colorfully-painted Harlequin ducks, four drakes with six in their harem. We'd never seen Harlequins before; we strained our eyes admiring them. The drakes are stunning to look at and impossible to photograph– so shy. Another sailboat came in just as evening arrived but he chose wisely and allowed plenty of swinging room for both of us. His boat is the counterpoint to the gorgeous sky we all enjoyed. Rikki-tikki-tavi made big arcs over the water as the tide came and went, rocking a bit with the Whaletown ferry wake, but the wind remained calm. Fall was in the air and the guests at the resort were lounging in the sun overlooking the harbor. Kayakers paddled about and campers walked their dogs along The Spit trail out to the tip. The color of maple leaves turning vibrant hues accented the hillsides. It was a relaxed atmosphere, no crowds of cruising boats from the US bustling in and out of the marina, just the locals coming out to enjoy the peace. In all, we made three trips to send and receive email, download the latest version of GPSNavX, and do banking online. Thank you, Heriot Bay! A big low pressure system was predicted to bring strong SE winds, so we took Rikki-tikki to Heriot Bay for fuel, once again squeezing him in backwards between the ferry landing and the docks. Clark can maneuver him into some very small spaces! The ferry comes in just beyond the little floating store on the right in this photo. Gorge Harbour, on the south side of Cortes Island, beckoned with promised protection from SE gales and we hadn't been there yet, so off we went, motoring along under, yet again, amazing skies. It just doesn't get boring! Each day's atmosphere and appearance is surprisingly different from the one before. Even when it's silvery gray or raining, the infinite variety of reflections, shapes and light give us much pleasure. I was hoping to see Shark Spit. We had to pass by it, through Z-shaped, tricky Uganda Passage, on the way to Gorge Harbour. I wanted to see if it was the place I remembered visiting while cruising with my grandparents as a teenager. The low-lying spit back then was so thick with live sand dollars of every size that there was little room for sand! It was impossible not to crunch them as one walked. We spent a sunny afternoon there, fascinated by the multiple layers of the spiny creatures, marveling in their purple billions. We lined up rows of graduated sizes, from the tiniest, smaller than ones baby finger, all the way to specimens a couple of inches across. Now I feared that they would be no more, but the time wasn't right to find out. The tide was very high and Shark Spit was hidden beneath the waves. I would have to wait for another visit, hopefully when a gale wasn't on its way. If we could buy an island, this would be the one. An islet next to Shark Spit, it has just the right combination of rocky outcroppings and protecting trees, a small bay for Rikki-tikki, and a great location for a house with a dynamite view. There was already a house there of course, with a guest cottage no less. Someone else owns Clark's Island. Fair winds, Clark & Nina

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Cruising British Columbia

Volume VIII: Von Donop Inlet to Octopus Islands The day was sunny and the wind calm as we motored up to Lewis Channel to Teakerne Arm. A breeze began picking up from the south and we rolled out the jib. Almost there, we saw that Jim and Sharon were already on their way out, having had a lovely swim! They told us over VHF they were headed for Von Donop Inlet, the other side of Cortes Island, because a low was coming in. We'd planned to spend the night at Teakerne if the wind remained calm, but it was quickly rising. We snapped photos of the waterfall and made a quick tour of the shoreline as we listened to Environment Canada's weather forecast for strong southeasterlies headed our way. There is no anchorage at Cassel Lake– the shore drops off to 120 feet within mere yards of the rocks. We promised ourselves to visit again next year when there was no wind! Von Donop seemed a good place to hide out from strong winds, so we joined Jim and Sharon there. Rikki-tikki's Northill anchor held us in place close to the southeast shore, hopefully protected from whatever was coming our way. We went to shore and hiked the left-hand trail which had a sign reading, "Squirrel Cove 2.5 km, Everywhere else 12 km." Walking for thirty minutes did not bring us to the point where we'd turned back from the other side. We were left wondering. We invited Jim and Sharon to chicken dinner, which we poached "a la Danny Kaye", a recipe from Jacques Pépin's book, The Apprentice. It is gently boiled for only ten minutes, then rests in the poaching liquid for forty-five. A perfect energy-saving dish for cruisers! We enjoyed a wonderful evening– it was calm and windless, quiet and serene, save for our lively conversation around the table. Next day, feeling the need to stretch our legs again, we set out on trail number three, the right-hand one, determined to actually arrive somewhere. It started out with a bit uphill, got my heart going, but then it leveled out to become a rolling path through alder and ferns. It was a pleasant and lovely trail, obviously well-travelled, but we were alone. Most of the trail is through First Nation People's land. Their name for Von Donop is Hathayim. The trail ended at the road to Whaletown, where we sat and had a snack, then hiked back. That afternoon, we heard the rumble of quadrunners and one appeared at the trailhead. Perhaps they were some of the volunteers who maintain the trails. We finally saw another eagle! After spotting only two eagles at Rebecca Spit since we arrived in Canada August 4th, we've often asked ourselves, "Where are all the eagles?" Are there just too many people, too many boats, too much pressure on the environment? Wildlife seems sparse to us, the forest and skies silent. We did see a small flock of Bonaparte gulls here and two red-breasted sapsuckers while hiking. At nine a.m. before breakfast, we left for Hole-in-the-Wall, a passage with a rapids at the end. We needed to arrive at slack water and had decided at the last minute to leave... we hadn't even eaten breakfast! So we turned up the throttle and zoomed north at seven-plus knots. There was a lot of debris to dodge as the tide had been extremely high and, when that happens, a lot of stuff gets lifted off the shoreline and carried into the channels. Another gorgeous scene, a silvery reminder of the rain overnight, made my photo look like black and white! Our arrival at the rapids was either a couple of minutes too early or a couple too late. We steered through the mild, though unnerving, whirls and upwellings, crossing the channel to enter the Octopus Islands Marine Park at low tide. This can be a good thing because at least you can see where the rocks are! The channel is very narrow and we went dead slow. Two boats were already shore-tied and we did likewise across the cove. Octopus Islands are a cluster, a very small cluster, of rocky islets with lots more rocks and hard things to hit if you're not careful. We've been told that it's very crowded in summer so we were glad to be there in September! Only one other boat, a small houseboat on the last night, came into "our" cove the five nights we were there. We hiked (more about that later), worked on our blog, met the cruisers on the other two boats and explored in Darzee. It rained the first night and dawn came shrouded in fog, otherwise sun bathed Rikki-tikki. Pat and Barry, who'd sailed their boat over from Hilo, Hawaii, told us that we had to go see a little cabin on the neighboring private island. We motored over in Darzee. It was chock-full with cruiser memorabilia! We spend an hour or so looking at mementos created and left by crews of boats. Some were very elaborate and large, others just a pencilled poem or decorated clamshell. It appeared to be a tradition for some to leave a new one or add to an existing artifact with each annual visit. We had to make and leave one from Rikki-tikki-tavi! We selected a piece of driftwood from the shore in front of the cabin, took it back to RTT, and carved our contribution to the fantastic clutter. There is room for us to add the year of each future visit. We tied our creation to a beam above one of the windows. John and Lynda told us we should hike the trail to Newton Lake above Waiat Bay. They'd been for a swim four times since arriving. They told us to take the trail to the left and that it was the easier trail, forty-five minutes. They also said that there were wolves in the area (I knew I'd heard howling the previous night!). We motored over (it took ten minutes to get there at top speed!), tied Darzee up to the shore on a lowering tide, giving him a very long tether and pushing him out so he would float free and not have to be carried back to the water. With the motor, the weight would be unmanageable. A group of kayakers were arriving at the same time, but thought better of attempting the hike (did they know something we didn't?) and returned to their kayaks. So we set off into the dense forest, just the two of us. Everything was nice and fresh from the rain, ferns perky, mosses spongy and green. There was a plethora of fungi and we saw new ones we hadn't see before. We must get a book! We took the left fork. As we went, the trail become more convoluted, detouring around downed trees and wet spots. It was obvious that someone maintains the trail as there were ribbon markers and freshly cut stumps, so it was not difficult to follow. In places, a deeply worn path cut through mosses three feet thick, dense sword ferns, cedar trees of some size but not old-growth. There were huge stumps with notches cut into them– evidence of logging long ago. We hiked for an hour. Clark started to question that we'd taken the right trail, but we'd seen no other and this one was clearly marked. So on we went. When the path turned uphill to become steep switchbacks, Clark was sure we'd done something wrong, but we kept climbing, very slowly. The path got narrower, suitable for mountain goats only– one edge went nearly straight down the mountain, the other side was steep enough to use as a handhold. I was worried about going back down! Finally, we crossed a trickling falls and then heard a larger falls close by. We climbed some more, the path leveled out and we saw a swampy pond through the trees. No way! We hiked all this way for that? Just then, I stepped in some wolf poop. Thank goodness for the thick moss on the path sides– that is sticky stuff! This couldn't be the right lake, we decided, so we continued trudging along. We were rewarded by arriving (an hour and forty-five minutes later!) at Newton Lake– a sign confirmed it. Very large and with crystal clear water, the lake didn't seem to offer any shore with swimming access. Spotting a rock outcropping around to the left, we continued hiking there. At this point, Clark was still sure there was an easier trail than the one we'd suffered, but the path ended at the rocks. Snack time– all we brought was a little baggy of nuts! We considered bathing but there was a chilly breeze and we hadn't brought a towel. We heard voices and I saw a couple on a rock outcrop to the right of where the trail came to the lake. It was Clark's turn to step in wolf poop on the way back. As he tried to remove the glop from his right shoe, he stepped into a whopper with his left shoe! Descending the steep trail, I stepped carefully over the ledges, rocks, tree roots, and banana slugs. I nailed one unfortunate invertebrate and almost slipped over the edge! We were soon overtaken by the two we'd seen at the lake. They bounded down the trail, with their dog in the lead, like mountain goats. John and Lynda arrived after us, got there while we were fumbling around on the wrong side of the lake, took their swim, and made it back to their dinghy way before us. Luckily they waited around on the shore for us to help carry Darzee. He'd gotten hung up in some rocks as the tide went out. All told, that hour and a half hike took us three and a half hours– and we didn't even get a swim! I saw a flotilla of surf scoters on the way back to Rikki. On the 24th, we left Octopus Islands headed for Surge Narrows at slack water, with a final destination of Rebecca Spit. It was another sunny, beautiful day in British Columbia! Fair winds, Clark and Nina

Grace & Squirrel

Volume VII: Grace and Squirrel Sounds like "Moose and Squirrel", from Rocky and Bullwinkel, my favorite cartoon series. My birthday the same day as Bullwinkel's! Anyway, from where we left off... Grace Harbor wasn't too crowded but we did our "head for the head" routine. Our theory is other boats won't anchor in the shallow areas and we'll have more privacy. Sometimes works, sometimes not. The second day, it wasn't working. We rowed into the area where the guide book says the stream flowing into the bay creates warm pools, where you'll be able to splash as you enjoy the rain forest. Hmmm. All we discovered were old rusty tractor parts, a big tire, muck and uninviting ooze. Maybe we had the wrong stream? We saw some folks had gone ashore from their dinghies a short distance away, so we headed there. We found a campsite, a pit toilet and a trail leading to the squishy mud trail that the "stream" piddled across. We're doing something wrong. The next day, we decided we just hadn't walked far enough, so we trekked past the mucky part and down a long trail through the forest. It dwindled as more and more fallen trees blocked the way. Clark found himself interested in capturing the growth of mushrooms and fungi on his video camera. He did find a wide variety to keep him busy! I continued to search for a trail to the "swimming lake", having spotted water through the trees (there is a lake on the chart too). Finally, I was at the edge of a wetland filled with grasses and lily pads. Could this be the right lake? It was pretty though, and Clark amused himself by taking movies of moss and spiders in their perfectly formed webs. We started back and heard people calling to each other. The couple we met were gathering chantrelles! Here we were just taking photos of mushrooms, they were collecting dinner. The man, named Wolf, told us where to look for these delicate edibles and we were off– bushwacking uphill off-trail in search of the elusive 'rooms. Two hours later, I'd found one, which Wolf later pronounced as "old", but we ate it anyway in an omelette next morning. Some new sea animals were revealed on a "really-low-tide" morning foray around the bay in Darzee. We were unsure what they were. They looked like anemones but had highly branched arms and five-segmented bodies. They were purple or orange, pink or wine-colored. Then we spotted some smaller white ones with more feathery arms. None of them were above the lowest tide mark but I managed to touch one just under the surface. It pulled in its arms and then we thought they might be nudibranchs. Research back on the boat proved the colored ones to be red sea cucumbers. The smaller white ones were stiff-footed sea cucumbers. They live in the sub-tidal zone and wedge their bodies between rocks. The shore around Grace Harbor is a good habitat for them; lots of little rocks and boulders. The water is usually very calm in the morning and, if you are lucky to get out before the first motorized dinghy takes a dog to shore for you-know-what, the rocks, seaweeds and mosses make interesting "totems". That's what my grandparents called the reflections along the shoreline. Our family has hundreds of Kodak slides of the totems they saw in their ten years of cruising BC. I thought this one was particularly intriguing. Wolf and Jan on Theresa II hailed us as we rowed by and invited us aboard. They spent a couple of hours telling us all about their "secret" places. They've been "out" for six years (New Zealand, Fiji, etc) and have returned home to Comox, to continue their already-decades of experience boating in BC. Cruisers are so generous! Later, we rowed over a shore-tie and let out more rode to back away from a powerboat who anchored too close. At our afternoon coffee time, we reconsidered our decision to head south, back to the Gulf Islands. We had plenty of time to keep exploring, did we not? What was the rush? We'd only been here a couple of weeks! So Rikki-tikki turned north and made tracks again for Squirrel Cove, Cortes Island. We needed a few provisions if were to stay longer. The tide was running a bit in Malaspina Inlet on our way out and we had a bit of fun negotiating the whirlpools and upwellings. A south wind was rising as we entered Squirrel Cove. We chose a spot far away from the cluster of boats anchored in front of the lagoon. We looked for protected, smooth water behind an islet, thinking, "surely nobody would be anchoring too close to us here!" It wasn't two hours before four, count 'em four, identical SunSail charter sailboats, each with five aboard, assembled in close proximity behind us. The first boat's bow man dropped the anchor and chain straight down, where it hit bottom and stopped paying out. The guy in the cockpit was standing with his hands in his pockets, gazing rather confusedly at the steering pedestal. The ladies disappeared below. The guy up front looked down at the spot where he'd dropped the anchor, straightened up, then threw his hands in the air and walked back to the stern. We were glad we were upwind, but what if the wind switched around... we'd be a sitting mongoose! (Later, at the town store, I asked the man who'd been on the bow where their fleet was headed next. Little did he realize, I just wanted to make sure we didn't go where they were going.) Rikki-tikki and crew found enough to keep things interesting for three nights. We took the trail. The sign read, "2.51 km", but didn't indicate to where. It was a lot of uphill through dense forest, lots of ferns and cedar, no chantrelles (Clark is now on continuous alert). Soon, the sun was on the verge of setting, so back down we went, not having arrived anywhere other than where we started. The tide was very high and that was when we met Jim. He was in his dinghy at the trailhead sign (told you the tide was very high!) asking where and how far? We couldn't give him that info, but did suggest waiting until high slack water to explore the lagoon. He roared back to his boat to pick up his wife, Sharon, and we all went over to the lagoon and shut off our motors. The end of the flood carried us in but it was too dark and the tide was too high, so we couldn't see any of the grand creatures we'd seen a couple weeks before. Just as we reached the other side, the tide turned and carried both dinghies back out into the bay! A short visit, but we met new friends. This is what happens when a boat is not moving very fast! Spiders set up housekeeping. Jim and Sharon took off early for Teakerne Arm the next morning for a swim at famous Cassel Lake. Coincidentally, we'd also planned to go there that day. We took Rikki-tikki to the public dock for another stop at the Squirrel Cove store on the way out. They had the right size fuel filters for RTT's oil change. A few phone calls to family and we were on our way to Teakerne Arm. Calm waters, Clark and Nina


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