To Port Hardy and Beyond!

July 4th was a busy repair day. The mechanics arrived on schedule with 4 brand new batteries. Then the electrician arrived and replaced the old isolator with a modern charger (1/5 the size but more effective). And drum roll . . . the battery alarm and siren no longer lit up or sounded. Hip Hip Hooray!

The Captain did some investigating of the tender that led to some cleaning and tidying of the bilge. He discovered that the fuel filter was not properly mounted but we easily found the proper screws and plugs in our newly organized equipment. Problem solved. Check!

After all the repairs were complete we walked again to the grocery store for our final provisioning for our trip north.

The local native dugout canoe went by our dock complete with chanting giving us our final blessing!

We ended our day with a needed shower, a good meal and fireworks on TV. We both feel ready. In fact, we both thought about Moses being tested by God in the desert. Thankfully, our test did not last 40 days! However, because of our boat problems, repairs and delays we have learned so much more about the True Love and her many systems. We’ve cleaned and organized everything. And now we both are ready for the adventure we had planned.

So we set our alarm for 6:30 AM and collapsed in bed excited for our True Love Adventures to come.

The First Mate woke up at 6 AM, anxious and excited and woke the Captain who would have preferred the extra half hour of sleep but rallied anyway, as we began our 100+ mile, 10-hour cruise north to Port Hardy, which is at the northern tip of Vancouver Island.

I write this about an hour south of Port Hardy. We hit the weather jackpot with calm seas, no wind and clearing skies. It’s sunny now although there are several thunder clouds in the distant mountains.

About half way to Port Hardy we passed Cormorant Island, named after the paddle sloop HMS Cormorant in 1864. About 1,000 people live on the Island and it has ferry service to other nearby islands and Vancouver Island. 60% of the people on the island live on the First Nation reservations there.

Watchful eyes are important because of all the debris in the water on this part of our cruise.

We passed some more dolphins fishing and pulled out our Whales and Dolphin book because they looked a little different than our last encounter. But it turns out they were both “Pacific White-Sided Dolphins”. Maybe we will also spot some Dall’s Porpoise or Northern Right Whale Dolphins on our trip. We hope so.

It’s exciting for both of us to be someplace we have never been before. And we saw another humpie!

The weather forecast for tomorrow looks good for our 50 mile crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound. Visibility is very good today and we can easily see the mainland which is comforting. According to all the reference texts, the key is to arrive at River’s Inlet during a flood tide.

Port Hardy was a bust. I’m sure it’s a very nice place, but there was no calm place to anchor and no spots available at the marina. However, just an hour northeast of Port Hardy there are several small islands with potential places to anchor. One in particular was recommended to us by our Seattle dock neighbors Mike & Kathy of “Rain Dancer”: God’s Pocket Resort. We called them and they told us where they were and said we could join them for dinner. Now “resort” is a very grandiose descriptor and most people would not include God’s Pocket in that category. It’s a very small inlet with an old collection of modest buildings that are colorful and rustic. What it does have is a sweet little “pocket” in the rocky shore that is protected from the big winds and waves that surround it.

The extra hour made for a very long 12 hour day, but the God’s Pocket Resort proprietor (Clouse) was making the final dinner for their weekly kayak guests so we anchored, showered, dropped the tender and joined in. Clouse met us at the “dock”. He is a 30-something former financier from England who had a number of amazing scuba diving experiences at God’s Pocket including one with a humpie. The original owners were looking to sell so he bought it!

At dinner he described his new experience as buying a “boat on land” as well as 3 other boats. It definitely is a “project” and we wish him and his partner the best of luck. Dinner was a feast and we enjoyed the company of the kayak group. One family was from Cleveland and another group was from Alaska.

Well fed, but pretty tired, we collapsed once again into bed ready to overcome our new hurdle: crossing Queen Charlotte Sound, passing Cape Caution and cruising on into Fitz Hugh Sound and Beyond.

The Big Crossing

We woke early to a foggy morning, pulled up the anchor and headed out. With our new batteries and charger the radar is working perfectly. Because of the fog it was calm. But cruising in the fog is intense. All eyes on deck is the rule of the day because there is a lot of debris in the water up here and the fog makes it even harder to spot the logs. Fortunately, the fog lifted quite a bit as we got away from the islands and into Queen Charlotte Sound.

Although Queen Charlotte Sound looks like crossing the Georgia Strait, it isn’t. As soon as we were out in the open the big ocean swells from the northwest appeared. It wasn’t choppy or windy but the swells were intense and they lasted for all 4 hours. Both of us got a little queazy. This is unusual for The Captain. Ginger beer helped and going below the top deck was something to avoid whenever possible: it was just too “rolely-polely” and not in the happy “Pokey Little Puppies” way.

We passed Cape Caution at almost the exact same time as the Columbia, the big open ocean ferry boat that regularly travels from Bellingham to Alaska and back. Jim took it with his family when he was a kid. It’s almost as big as a cruise ship.

After a long 4 hours we made it to our destination, Fury Cove on Penrose Island. Fury Cove is the first protected anchorage after crossing Rivers Inlet and entering Fitz Hugh Sound. Penrose Island has lots of little islets all around it, creating a variety of fun bays for anchoring and exploring by kayak.

After anchoring, I made my best imitation of our favorite “Raman Ya” curry noodle soup and we watched some Wimbledon on the satelite before taking a well deserved nap. We felt accomplished but, truly exhausted. Being adventure buddies can be tiring!

But to put our adventure in perspective, a group of kayakers arrived at the same time as us. They are kayaking the usually very rough waters all the way from Bella Bella to Port Hardy. Our good friend Robert DeWolf has done this kayak trip and we can’t imagine doing it ourselves. Our hats are off to the Robert DeWolf and anyone else who attempts such a challenge.

Our friend Alan Middleton, when he was much younger, sailed on a relatively small boat to Hawaii. After our 4 hours of swells, the idea of days in the big ocean is mind boggling to us. So while the Captain and First Mate of the True Love are also adventurers, our adventures are quite tame compared to others. However, I’m sure we sleep better and eat better than the folks traveling by kayak!

In the afternoon we used the tender to explore the beautiful white shell beach at Fury Cove and the surrounding small islets. While most of the trees in the forests here are small, there are a few big cedar trees.

After dinner we pulled out our reference texts and charts to schedule our stops all the way up to our final destination north, Fjordland’s Culpepper Lagoon on July 12th, before we head back south towards home.

It’s morning now at Fury Cove. We are very rested, drinking coffee, and enjoying our view of the cove with eagles flying all around. After pulling up anchor we’re heading to Rock Inlet for a couple of days to enjoy our surroundings and kayak. We’ve got high fog here now, but the weather satellite says that it should be clearer at our destination, which is about 25 miles north.

Fitz Hugh Sound was relatively calm today with light winds and following seas as we headed north. Cruising this new territory is fun as we follow along on the chart and investigate different inlets and bays along the way.

Our original destination for today, Rock Inlet, was a bit of a bust. The inlet is near Namu Lake and Namu River, the former site of a large salmon cannery. Although fishing boats were in the main bay, the abandoned large cannery complex is delapitated and badly deteriorated. Nearby Rock Inlet is definitely a 10 out of 10 for protection against winds and waves, unfortunately, it’s only a 4 for ambiance.

The Captain and the First Mate concurred that this was not where we wanted to anchor today so we consulted the reference texts again and picked out a couple of choices further north near Burke Channel.

This is how we discovered Fougner Inlet. And it’s perfect. Probably only a 7 in protection, but definitely a 9 in ambiance and we were the only boat here. As we slowly approached a narrow entry to our anchorage a mother and baby seal welcomed us. The fog lifted while we went out for along kayak around all the little nooks and crannies. The calls eagles and other birds are the high notes to the peaceful sounds of the breeze and the water lapping around us.

Our first few impressions of the BC coast north of Vancouver Island are:

1. It’s massive and would truly take months to explore fully. With so many islands, islets, clusters of islands and islets, there are hundreds of deserted bays, inlets, coves and other interesting places to explore.

2. The forest is different here, the best way to describe it is messy. Trees grow in all shapes and sizes and at all angels, but there aren’t many large old trees. There are lots of silver-colored dead trees in the forest that covers everything you can see. We are not sure if the silver-colored dead trees come from past fires or if they are the usual ways older trees transition here.

3. Fewer marine mammals. We saw one humpie in the distance as we got close to Fury Cove, but other than that we have only seen seals so far, and not very many.

4. The unprotected waters in Queen Charlotte Sound are definitely narly. And when you pass a channel that opens to the unprotected waters the large rolling waves come deep into the protected areas.

Tonight I made pizza on the grill (thanks Greg & Carolyn!) and it came out perfectly thanks to the Trader Joe’s pre-made dough for the crust.

As this late summer day comes to an end, we are sitting on the True Love positioned with an unobstructed view of the sunset listening to the final calls of the eagles and seabirds.

Cruise to Shearwater:

So far we’ve checked out another anchorage nearby, Humchitt Island and we prefer Fougner.

Then we spotted one, two, three eagles flying by and followed them to their destination: a big feeding party with all kinds of water fowl. I took lots of photos. Here are just a few. James and Robert, can you spot the eagle that has a fish in each talon?

And our cruise wouldn’t be complete unless we pass Gillian and Gubby In Caper! They went by just south of the turn to Lama Passage. Today is Gillian’s birthday! Happy Birthday to you🎉🎂🍾.

Shearwater:

And we have arrived in Shearwater: The landscape really opens up around us and we can see where we are headed next. Exciting. The True Love is at the dock and we have phone and internet. Tomorrow we leave for our Rescue Bay and our final destination Culpepper Lagoon in Fjordland.

The Captain and First Mate of the True Love

They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

Dolphins & Orcas Lead us to the Perfect Anchorage

Days on the True Love don’t get much better than yesterday. We headed out from Erasmus Island heading south for warmer water. The Captain wanted to go on a hunt for wildlife and the First Mate was fine with that plan as long as we had a specific end goal in mind.

Our original goal was Pendrell Sound where the waters are the warmest in Desolation Sound. Within an hour of leaving we ran into a large pod of about 50 dolphins near Fredrick Arm (just south of Dent Island) and we hung out with them for quite a while taking pictures and video.

Because of our great experience with the dolphins we were late to the Dent rapids and they were in full boil running at over 7 knots. The more youthful Captain and First Mate of the True Love would have plowed right through with no doubt that their two big 375 horsepower engines would charge through the rapids without a problem. The more wise and seasoned officers of the True Love, however, understand that we live in a quantum theory world of Schrodinger’s Cat theory where equipment can work and not work at the same time and you don’t really know which it is until you enter the rapids.

So we turned off the engines in the bay north of Dent and peacefully floated for a quiet lunch, listening the roar of the rapids. Our patience was rewarded with another interaction with the large pod of dolphins. More pictures and video!

After the rapids calmed down and the dolphins moved on we made our way through the rapids without incident. We were monitoring the chatter from the whale excursion boats and it appeared there were orcas near Toba Inlet, the correct direction for us, so we continued to head that way.

On our way we saw a lot of eagles at Jimmy John Island (near Big Bay on Stuart Island).

As we got close to the reported sighting of the orcas, a tour boat zipped by. We decided to speed up and follow the tour boat and we were rewarded with a long interaction with a big mother orca and her two babies.

The Captain even spotted a very scared seal quietly hiding in the rocks on shore just above the waterline. It was one of those happy National Geographic moments where the prey was scared, but spared.

While following the orcas south down Homfray Channel the First Mate consulted the Waggoner book to see if there was an alternative place to anchor. We were right near Forbes Bay which looked beautiful and the book had a short mention of someone successfully anchoring there. So we decided to give a try. We investigated a couple of options and decided a deeper than usual anchorage, (100 ft) at the head of the bay with a glorious view of the mountains and sunset. The water is 72 degrees and the air is perfect. Furthermore, we were the only boat here, once again alone in paradise.

James and Robert we thought a lot about you two today and can’t wait to share all the orca and dolphin fun with you on the True Love!

The skies were clear and the new moon set during the day, so we planned on getting up in the middle of the night for our first star watching of the trip. The stars were bright and the milky way was clear in the sky. We saw lots of satellites, a few small shooting stars, and a faint, pulsating object we call a UFO.

Before heading back to bed we turned on our new underwater lights. Clearly these are an unnecessary piece of equipment, so they worked beautifully and the fish and other sea creatures gathered to the light.

We thought we were going to make a full 24 hours without an equipment issue, but that was not be. As we were heading back to sleep we heard an annoying ticking sound. The First Mate had heard it before, but the Captain had not. Nondescript sounds on a boat are hard to track down. This one was clearly coming from the lower levels. But we sleuthed it out. It’s a thru-hull of some sort that has a crazy warning sign. We found it under a hatch under our storage area. But thankfully the sound can be turned off by turning off the “electronics” fuse from the fuse panel at night when we are at anchor. We have since found out that it is the sonar.

But, on a good note, the radar which disappeared again this morning after turning off the electronics last night, reappeared as soon as we turned on the generator. It appears to be related to the voltage issues as expected.

Schroedinger’s Cat!

Our morning in Forbes Bay was lovely and we enjoyed a long kayak and paddle board. The next day we headed to Pendrell Sound, but it was unusually windy. So on Tuesday we headed out to get some cell service and see if our repair part was coming in on Thursday at Campbell River.

As soon as we had cell service we got a message that we were on for Thursday for our “final” repair. Woohoo!

We had a day to spend somewhere so we headed to Okeover Inlet and tried to get a reservation at the Laughing Oyster restaurant.We’ve never had the time to go there and boy it is a must stop. Our dinner was marvelous!

Today, we are heading on to Campbell River. But first we made a stop in Lund to visit Nancy’s Bakery and fill up with goodies to sustain us for our voyage north. We are still hopeful that after our repairs tomorrow we will still have time to cross the Queen Charlotte Strait north of Vancouver Island and explore Fjordland and the Great Bear Rainforest.

Just before I finished this blog we spotted a humpie. And it surfaced right next to the True Love! The photos have a silvery, black and white look because of the overcast sky. I really like the look.

The Captain and the First Mate of The True Love

“The slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.” F. Scott Fitzgerald