Thompson Sound: whales, dolphins, bears, Trapper Rick and his new guide, Rees Wilson

Traveling south from the Broughtons back to Campbell River and Desolation Sound is much more comfortable when the typical NW winds blowing down Johnstone Strait are “light” (15 knots or less). Unfortunately, the typical NW winds blowing down Johnstone Strait are “Gale” (35+ knots) or “Strong” (20+). On Sunday, the wind forecast for Johnstone Strait for Monday morning were “light” so we decided to make our way back to the south part of the Broughtons so that we were set up to enter Johnstone Strait on Monday morning. On our way we hoped to see a bear on the beach looking for crabs or clams at low tide.
We stopped first at the Kwatsai Bay Marina to check it out and use some of the best internet in the area so far. It’s a really pretty little bay, surrounded by high mountains, and run by a lovely family although the docks could use some newer planks. The marina was fully reserved, but there was an open spot at the dock where we were allowed to tie up for a quick visit. It’s definitely a good stop for the future. 

 At Kwatsi we got a much-needed Grandparent fix by trading quick text videos with James before leaving to find our anchorage for the night. Based on descriptions in the Waggoner Cruising Guide (our go-to reference text), the Captain decided to investigate the head of Thompson Sound, about 10 miles away. Although the waters of Thompson Sound are so deep that there is almost no place to anchor, the cruising guide said there there was a small area at the very head of the Thompson Sound where a few boats could anchor. 

So began our magical adventure in Thompson Sound. I decided to take a quick snooze so to recover from my late night star gazing the night before when Jim spotted “Wanda” the Whale breaching in the middle of the Thompson Sound, about a mile in front of our boat. 

   

 We spent the next hour watching Wanda, becoming amateur biologists by counting the number of breaths between each of her dives. The typical pattern was ten breaths: 8 lounging on the surface before bowing her powerful body on the 9th and then diving down strongly after the 10th, showing us the pretty white underside of her tail (which is how we identified Wanda as a humpback whale). Wanda typically remained submerged for 5 minutes (presumably searching for food) before repeating her routine.

The head of Thompson Sound is a glorious place, surrounded by mountains and including the Kakweiken River, where salmon run and bears hunt salmon. The Captain and I had not seen a bear yet, but this was prime bear habitat, so we were hopeful.

The head of the sound had one boat anchored in the little area where anchoring was possible, plus a small shack and a little dock about a mile away. The depths shown by our depth sounder were very different from those on our charts (much shallower in the areas closer to the mouth of the river, and much deeper in the areas farther away. Later we would learn that there was a huge rock avalanche last year that had really changed the river, the shoreline and the nearby bay.

After anchoring a kayaker paddled our way from the small shack and the dock. He introduced himself as Rees Wilson and said that he and his boss had the “wilderness license” for the area and offered bear tours. He seemed like a sweet young man but his first price was much too high for us. After paddling back and conferring with his boss (he referred to him as “the old man”) we soon negotiated an acceptable price, and set the time for our “tour” for the early evening when it would be cooler.

Now we assumed Rees and his boss would be taking us on a boating trip up the river. We assumed wrong. At the appointed time we took our dinghy to their dock where we were introduced to the “old man”: Trapper Rick. Now Trapper Rick is lanky man who looks like he has been in the Canadian outback for decades. It turns out that our young kayaker, Rees Wilson, was training with Trapper Rick to become a licensed “bear guide”. In Canada you must first apprentice with a guide for at least a year before you can take the official bear guiding class. Although this seemed backward to us, we assume the government is just trying to reduce the average class size in their bear guiding school.

Assuming our adventure used a boat and not our legs, we wore our “chako” hiking sandals, not hiking shoes, and Jim didn’t bringing his hiking poles. Nevertheless, we just went for it when Trapper Rick suggested we just put on some bug spray and follow the two of them up the trail from the little dock to a truck that was apparently parked about a half mile away. The trail was once a road, but the road was destroyed by last year’s rockslide, which also washed out a bridge and other parts of the road.

Truck? Huh?

At this point we guessed that we would be taking a truck to a boat that was on the river upstream, and then using the boat to go see the bears. Wrong again.

Along the trail I turned around and looked at Jim smiling and mouthed “OMG”. 

Rees was carrying a can of gas. It turns out that was for the old, very used truck. Because Rees and Rick had no funnel, the siphon method was used to put a couple of gallons of gas in the truck before we drove off into bear country.

As we began our drive up the logging road, we learned that we were Rees’s first official clients during his bear guide training

We were honored to be Rees’ first clients, but glad that Trapper Rick was in the truck with us.

  Trapper Rick gently instructed Reese from the back seat as we made our way up the logging road where we had our first encounter with a grizzly bear: Emma or just “Em”. Rick had named most of the bears over the years. Emma responded to Rick talking to her from the truck, window down, which really made Jim nervous. But, Rick said not to worry, Em could break into the truck easily regardless of whether the window was up or down.

Grizzlies are big bears, even from a distance, and Emma was a female and thus smaller than all of the males.
The logging road abruptly came to an end where an old bridge across the river was now missing. So, we got of the truck walked on a trail followed the river upstream. This river meanders up the mountainside, with occasional small waterfalls. The truck ride took us 600 feet above sea level. 
Once again we were walking a trail, in a line, late in the day in Grizzly country, just Trapper Rick, Rees, me and then Jim. We learned that Trapper Rick, thank God, carried a big 45 caliber handgun and, less comforting, that Rees had a big can of pepper spray. But we were all having a good time and Trapper Rick and Rees certainly seemed confident in their abilities and leadership.

Jim later told me that he was thinking about the old saying: “you don’t have to run faster than the bear, you just have to run faster than the people you’re with” as we walked the trails. Unfortunately for Jim, even though Trapper Jim had a bad leg, he still was pretty fast for an old guy, so Jim felt he was the definitely the slowest in our group. Of course, Jim was counting on Trapper Rick to take on a bear with his gun if needed while we made our escape, giving Jim a short lead at least in getting back to the truck! I never had these thoughts because I assumed I was at worst the second fastest in our group.

Now we thought: it must be time to get in the boat. And there was a boat! 

  Unfortunately, it was a sad little rowboat, with no engine or even a paddle, at the bottom of a steep embankment. The old boat was tied to a rope crossing the river and was used like a small river ferry in old westerns movies, where the passengers pulled the rope to traverse to the other side.

  
OK! 

So we climbed down the embankment using a ladder to reach the lower riverbank. We got into the old boat and Rick and Reese pulled us the 30 yards across the river. Again, this all happened on a salmon river in grizzly bear country. Let’s just say that if we had seen a grizzly bear there, it would have been very intimate, but also a bit unnerving.

Safely across the river, we climbed out and headed to Rick’s mountain cabin about a half mile away, situated right next to a 10 foot waterfall and an old concrete salmon ladder. The cabin, like every other aspect of Trapper Rick’s Wilderness Bear Adventure Experience, needs some work. But the location was amazing: the salmon were beginning to run, the sun was about to set, and Trapper Rick thought our chances of seeing grizzly bear were excellent. 

OK! 

  We walked a short trail from the cabin to the riverand hung out for about 30 minutes on the river, next to the fish ladder, while Rees watched for bear and Trapper Rick fished for salmon with a rod and reel. 

Jim later told me he was preparing his escape route down one of the weaving concrete chambers in the fish ladder where he figured the bear couldn’t squeeze through. But Jim’s escape route was unnecessary, as there were no bears at the fish ladder while we were there. 

 As the sun was setting we made our way back the way we came: trail past the cabin to the boat, boat across the river, trail to the truck (where Trapper Rick briefly couldn’t find the keys because Rees hid them in the ash tray instead of “leaving them in the ignition in case of an emergency” as he was told), truck down the logging road (it was getting dark, and the headlights weren’t working), truck to the end of the road and finally trail to the dock. 

Halfway down the logging road Rees said he sensed that we would see another bear and we did. The biggest male bear in the local area ran across the road in front of us. Grizzly sighting number 2!

We were all tired and hungry when we got into our dinghys to head to our boats. Yes, Rick and Rees were staying in the other boat in the small anchorage. Probably a good idea given the grizzly bears living in the area!

We said our goodbyes at the dock and drove our dinghy the short distance back to the safety of the True Love where I cooked up some chicken legs on the grill and heated up a package of Trader Joe’s gnocchis. We washed those down with some celebratory champagne. After much needed showers we shared some ice cream on the upper helm while looking at the glorious stars and reliving our big adventure in GrizzlyLand.

What a crazy, wonderful, unexpected adventure. Both Trapper Rick and Rees love what they are doing and where they are working in this beautiful land. Trapper Rick stays in the area in the winter and hunts sable in the winter. His life has taken him from Nova Scotia, to Los Angeles (where he was briefly a member of Hell’s Angels before witnessing a murder), to working as a welder in Northern Canada to his current gig of Wilderness Bear Guiding in Thompson Sound. 

The sounds of seals splashing in the water filled the air as we fell into a long, deep sleep. The next morning it was low tide and we hoped to spot another bear at the beach during low tide. Rees paddled over to say goodbye and while he was aboard we all saw Emma on the nearby beach.

  
It was a little tricky bringing in the shore tie because the seaweed on the surface had tightly bound both the incoming and outgoing lines together. We’ve never experienced this before. It wasn’t impossible to detangle, just tedious.

Because of the problem with our shore tie and the lovely morning bear sighting, we left a little later than expected which led to rougher seas than we hoped as we cruised south down Johnstone Strait. On our way out of Thompson Sound we passed some  more Dolphins. 

   

But fortunately, the winds and seas were going in the same direction as we were, and the True Love and its crew made it the 20 miles to the next safe harbor, Forward Harbour, without a problem. The calm bay was a bit crowded with boats gathering to prepare for the trip north to the Broughtons the next morning.  But we found a good anchorage, took the kayaks out for a spin and slept in the next morning before heading down to one of our favorite spots: the “Crawford Anchorage” next to Erasmus Island, near the Blind Channel Resort. It was as perfect as we remembered, so we stayed there for a couple of days before meeting up with Jasmine and James at Dent Island. 

  Crawford Anchorage is a practically perfect location with room for just one boat, fantastic views, eagles and a short tender drive to Blind Channel. 

  
Blind Channel is one of the nicest places in this area with a yummy restaurant for dinner, little store, fuel pumps, internet and overnight docks. Last night we went there for dinner. Their salads are beautiful with edible flowers and yummy fresh greens. After more than a week out we are out of fresh vegetables, so I was craving greens.
Today we are going to do some provisioning back at Blind Channel, kayak, fish and edit these blogs so that we can share our most recent adventures with you! 

True Love Adventure copy editor hard at work!

From the Lethargy Zone to the Southern Gulf Islands

First, it appears I forgot to post these wonderful dolphin photos from our encounter near Fredrick’s Arm last week. So here they are!

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 It’s Monday night and we are at anchor in Reef Harbour between Tumbo Island and little Cabbage Island. The sun is still pretty high in the sky at 6:35 PM. It’s high tide now, but in the morning we should see the reef clearly marked on the charts appear around us. We are nearing the end of our journey. We can see Point Roberts, Bellingham and Anacortes in the distance to our East and South. To our north and west we can see Vancouver. We even see the Cascades. DSC_5255 DSC_5280This is a special spot to end this year’s True Love Cruise Adventure. It isn’t often that you are on the edge of the Strait of Georgia and there are no winds. Supposedly this spot is protected in a SE wind. But it certainly can’t be a big wind. Tumbo Island just isn’t very big or tall and Cabbage Island is much smaller.

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The Lethargy Zone of Nanaimo:

We spent the last few days winding down after arriving in Nanaimo late on Saturday after a 10-hour cruise south.DSC_5236

We were pretty tired and shifted into the True Love lethargy zone. After sleeping in we walked to breakfast in “downtown” Nanaimo. Nanaimo, whoa, whoa, whoa. Nanaimo . . . you get it. On our way to breakfast at the recommended Tina’s Cafe we heard our names. Believe it or not, but Jim’s cousin and colleague at Dick’s Drive-In, Ron Schmeer and his son Kian family were walking down the road a block away.   Ron, his wife KC, and their two kids Kian and Maria had just spent the night at a Nanaimo hotel on the way to Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Small world!

 

After breakfast we searched for a bicycle shop to procure a working pump for the hydraulic repair. It wasn’t easy to find, but after circling the area we stumbled upon their sign that led to a cute shop in an alley. Well fed and properly equipped we headed back to the True Love where we used the plentiful water for cleaning before entering fully into the “lethargy zone” at the “Dingy Dock Pub”. We’ve been to Nanaimo many times, but always in transit never allowing ourselves the luxury of approaching the “space time continuum” that leads to the do-nothing-chill-completely-relax zone. No one really realizes how much they need some time in the lethargy zone until they’re in it. Our cruise has been amazing, but we needed a respite from the adventure, the fishing and the visits.

 

The Dinghy Dock Pub was suggested to us by Stan Harrelson, on a comment he made on my Facebook post. Thank you Stan and thank you Facebook!

 

We stresslessly took the tender to the bar, planted our hinies in perfect seats along the edge of the bar where we drank and ate, on the floating Pub with a 180 degree view of Nanaimo’s Harbor. We were intermittently blessed with the warmth of the sun and gently cooled by the occasional clouds. As we lounged we saw the BC Games’ small sailboat race. The BC Games were underway in Nanaimo. They are the equivalent of the Junior Olympics. Some of the sailboats were extremely little — young elementary school child small.photo It wasn’t busy at the Dinghy Pub and we didn’t rush. When it was the perfect time we loaded the tender and headed gently back to the True Love, only 5 minutes away, where we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging in bliss. While lounging, a huge 150 foot sailboat docked almost in front of us and just behind the stunning , century-old, 100 foot classic yacht owned by the Foss Tugboat company. The True Love was in extremely good company. We listened to jazz, ate cheese and watched people gawk at the two stunning yachts in front of us.

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Because we hadn’t yet paid for our moorage we picked ourselves up and exited the lethargy zone for a walk to the harbormaster and then a stroll along the waterfront to an extremely bustling dock. It’s hard to believe that this hub of activity was so visible off our pier as the crow flies, but it took a one-mile stroll to actually get there. We passed people walking, running, eating ice cream, fishing, crabbing and throwing food scraps to seagulls and an eagle. Now this eagle is always there at this time of the evening. We have seen it from the True Love before. This is not a majestic wild eagle. This eagle is fat, lazy and happy living in bliss inside the “lethargy zone.” He wouldn’t even grab the turkey leg that was offered to him just before sunset. He was just too full!

 

Sunday morning we set our alarm so we wouldn’t sleep in. A first for the trip. We needed to work off the lethargy, so we drank a healthy protein, kale, spinach and berry elixir and went for a 3 mile run/walk along the waterfront. Next, we used the new bicycle pump to increase the pressure in the hydraulics so the gearshift and throttle would be more responsive. Lastly, we topped off the water before departing through Dodd Narrows at slack tide for our next destination: Montague Harbour.

 

Montague Harbour

Like Nanaimo we had never lingered in Montague Harbor, we just used it as a great anchorage coming or going. But we wanted to stay awhile and explore.   A masseur from Poets Cove had suggested we try the Galliano Island spa. So we called on our way and after some phone issues we were able to schedule massages and a pick-up at the dock. Because the favorable light SE winds we anchored for the first time in relative seclusion on the outer NW arm of the bay in front of a bright white shell beach..

 

The Galiliano Island Resort & Spa was lovely. It’s located on the east side of Active Pass, the main route for ferries between Victoria and Vancouver. We enjoyed our massages, steam and dinner. In the lobby, the little resort and spa has an extremely cool mural made up of individual painted squares that together create a larger image of an orca and calf.   It was commissioned from the local Galliano artists. We returned by car and then tender to the True Love just in time for a quick sunset before melting into bed.

 

Today we woke up naturally and went for a lovely kayak along the SW shore of Galliano Island. The architecture of the buildings, big & small, homes or office towers have become fascinating to me. I wish I had known my interest earlier as I think I would have enjoyed architecture. I also have quite a fascination for big construction equipment and the process of building projects. Ahhh . . . maybe the next time around . . .

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But, I digress; the homes on the cliffs were stunning. They are examples of the kind of architecture I appreciate, with the building and materials blending in with the surroundings, yet taking advantage of the spectacular terrain and views. The architecture, combined with the sandstone cliffs, rock formations and the calm water made for a lovely kayak.

Fish Falling from the Sky:

I’m going to take this as a sign from the eagles above that we should keep fishing. When we returned to the True Love, there was a large, but mostly eaten fish in the tender. It was totally gruesome and quite a mess, but it cleaned up easily.

After cleaning up the mess, I mixed up a 2014 True Love Adventure favorite, capresse salad, for lunch, using small multi-colored tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, avocado, oil, balsamic vinegar, spices, fresh basil (from my basil plant on board) and sprinkled bacon (if appropriate), all chopped it into bite-sized pieces.

We ate lunch on the new upper deck area and watched quite a few boats anchor around us. But no bother, we were about to pick up and head to our last destination in Canada where we now sit peacefully watching the sunset, sharing a yummy, decadent, fresh-strawberry-and-cream cocktail.

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On the way we decided to trust the sea condition forecast and choose the shorter route through Active Pass out to the southern end of the Georgia Strait. We’ve always been a little nervous about getting caught in the narrow passage with one or two of the giant BC ferries. DSC_5255But it worked perfectly and we were able to easily maneuver out of the way as two ferries passed by. The seas were calm in the Georgia Strait and we enjoyed a smooth cruise to our next destination: Reef Harbour (between Tumbo Island and little Cabbage Island.

 

Reef Harbour:

Reef Harbour is very unusual in that it’s only a harbor at low tide. At high tide, the little harbor is almost completely exposed to the Strait of Georgia. But as the tide lowers, extensive shoals are revealed that create a fully enclosed harbor! We’ve never seen anything like it.

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After we anchored (at high tide), we explored little Cabbage Island a bit. The “reference text” suggested this little island of rock and trees off our port was worth the stroll. So we landed and circumnavigated the tiny island on foot beginning on a perfect sandy shore. From there we walked past pine trees, birch leaves rustling in the wind, flowering sea grass and pretty madrona trees. We traversed both sand and rock beaches, as well as a strange conglomerate made of large fist-size colorful rocks in a hard black base. Cabbage Island is so much more than its silly vegetable name: a small cornucopia of flora and geology surrounded by beautiful views. And in this calm weather it’s perfect. As we walked the north side of the island, fronting the Strait of Georgia, the driftwood was spectacularly large. photoOne tree stump was at least 50 feet around, 15 feet high and had a significant root system. Standing perfectly upright on shore it was harmless and beautiful, but I can’t imagine seeing it in the stormy waters it had to traverse to land in its current spot.

 

Now that we’re back on the True Love, the seals are playfully slapping the water all around us, eagles are chirping, perching and occasionally even soaring over the trees.

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Tomorrow we head back across the imaginary border separating Canada and the US. We plan to stop in La Conner for a night and visit the Bow Spady clan before our final cruise back to the Elliott Bay Marina on Wednesday.

 

DSC_5355This morning we got to see our anchorage in all of its “low-tide” splendor. The sun was out but we could see the clouds in the distance so we went for a great kayak to the head of the bay, spotting the local eagle pair close to shore. photoJim found a fun passage that was just deep enough for kayaks through the shoal the creates “shoal harbor” at low tide and we kayaked back on the unusually glassy calm water of the Georgia Strait, passing baby seals soaking up the sun on shore and playing in the water.

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Back in the USA!

Traditionally, during our return to Washington State, it begins to rain just as we return and today is no exception. But we are snug and warm in the True Love’s lower helm, heading back home in some sprinkles with calm seas as we cruise through the San Juan Islands. We’ve cleared customs via phone using our NEXUS cards and all is fine and dandy.

 

This year we enjoyed sharing our adventure in person with some very special people: Liza & Brian Cohen, Jess & Saul, my parents George and Sheila Lederer and their great-grandson Zan, Jasmine, David & James, and of course all of you who read the blog!  It’s been fantastic and we can’t wait until next year’s cruise. Thanks for sharing our True Love Adventures!

 

More Sharing & a Bit of Drama!

james ArrivesWe arrived at Dent Island about 10 minutes before the seaplane we thought was caring the Jasmine, David & James, but they were in another seaplane that arrived about 30 minutes later.   I told one of the guys exiting the first seaplane for a weekend salmon derby that I was very disappointed and he playfully responded that his wife says that to him all the time. 

 I was a little nervous about how James was going to do on the flight.  Seaplanes are great fun, but a bit noisy.  However, when they landed right in front of the True Love, docked and deplane, everyone had smiles and the flight was obviously a success.  Dent Island was a perfect place for James to acclimate to “boat time”. DSC_4861 We enjoyed lunch on the deck of the little restaurant while James explored this new place.

 

DSC_4869DSC_4910DSC_4890After lunch the Captain took us on the tender to see all the eagles at nearby Jimmy Judd Island (we call it Eagle Island because there are always lots of eagles there), and we took another short excursion from there to Big Bay on Stuart Island for some rock throwing into the water.  Rock throwing into water is currently James favorite past time.  He prepares with a rock in each hand.  It’s our job to collect the rocks and keep a constant pile available.  He wind-ups like a pitcher and throws with great enthusiasm and follow-throDSC_4918ugh.  It’s also our job to make sure he doesn’t fall over.  In addition to all the eagles at Jimmy Judd Island we also saw 3 sea lions (a first for the True Love in the area and apparently very unusual there before September).

 

After we returned to the True Love, James took a little nap with Jasmine. DSC_4863 After eating such a late and big lunch we just noshed for dinner.  As twilight set in we noticed the “super-moon” rising.  David and I grabbed my camera and tripod to try and shoot it.  We didn’t last very long, because we were attacked by a swarm of mosquitos.  We still got a good shot.  DSC_4950We ended our day giving James a bath.  I had purchased a portable bath on Amazon.  It was much smaller than the photo (which showed two children in the bath). DSC_4943 Obviously it was photo-shopped or neither child had any legs.  But, it worked perfectly for James on the boat.

 

The next day after a hardy breakfast and some more rock-throwing on Dent Island, we headed out on our cruise to Pendrell Sound in search of warm water for swimming.  James was great on the cruise.  I brought up the tub for some playtime and he enjoyed the new enclosed back DSC_4970deck on the upper deck.

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There was lots of laughter during the three days and two nights we were together, and a great joy to watch Jasmine, David and James play and laugh.  They are great parents and a loving family.  I brought a beach ball on the boat for James and he loved it.  Playing with all kinds of balls is another one of James’ favorite activities.  He loved playing with the beach ball, tossing it around inside the boat.

 

The weather has been extremely hot the last week and the water in Pendrell Sound was extremely warm:  over 78 degrees.  Because we were looking for the warmest water for James we sailed all the way up to the head of bay.  Jasmine and I decided to try securing the shore tie, which was great entertainment for everyone on the nearby boats and the men on the True Love. DSC_4984 I don’t drive the tender very often and I’m just not that good at its subtleties.  We also were anchored too far away from the shore for our line and the Captain had to readjust the anchor chain, which isn’t usually a good idea and would lead to some drama later that evening.  But as we accomplished our immediate task the people on the boat next to us cheered.DSC_5035

We were all ready for a swim!  It was super fun and we all had a blast!  David took bath duty with James while Jasmine and I did one last swim.

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We were all extremely exhausted from the sun, the voyage, the swimming and the playing, so we watched the movie “Bride & Prejudice” (David had never seen it and James loved dancing to the music). 

We ended our day with a yummy meal of BBQ Chicken, garlic shrimp and broccoli, all cooked on the grill.   James was having a little issue with some teething so he wasn’t as interested in eating as usual.  I decided to mix him up a special protein coconut milkshake and that seemed to work for him!DSC_4545

Now for the adventure!

Remember we had to let out more anchor chain to accomplish our shore tie.  Unfortunately, that created too much play in our anchoring system.  Around 1 AM we were hit by some big gusts of wind that moved the boat much too close to our neighbors.  So, the Captain decided we had to start the engine, raise the anchor, retrieve the shore tie and head out.  This is never fun in the middle of the night and particularly when in close quarters to other boats. 

The good news is that we didn’t hit anyone.  Jasmine and David obviously woke up when we started the engine but, unbelievably, James never woke up the entire time.  It was remarkable all around.  Guided by the light of the moon, we headed the True Love over to a spot in the middle of Pendrell Sound where we had anchored without a shore tie in the past.  We also got to use our newly purchased FLIR night vision scope.  We had bought it this year for just this very situation!  When we got to the new anchor location the Captain didn’t feel comfortable with the anchorage.  So we decided to head to the middle of Pendrell Sound, send the kids to bed while we stayed up until dawn when we could anchor more easily.  The Captain and I took turns sleeping and we made it through the night with no problem.  In fact, the True Love never moved much at all while floating unanchored in the middle of Pendrell Sound.  We all decided the next morning that anchoring is clearly overrated! 

 By the time James awoke, a perfect spot for spending the day had become available and we easily dropped anchor and spent the day rock throwing from shore and from the True Love’s swim platform.DSC_5019  We also enjoyed more swimming and kayaking and James took a long nap.  DSC_5022Right before we had to go ,Jim spotted the Schuchart’s boat “Geronimo” entering Pendrell Sound.

 

We hailed them on the VHF and wished them a fun time.  They have brought their boat up and their son and his family would soon be flying up to take the boat back to Seattle.  DSC_5048During the trip David and Jasmine learned more about piloting the True Love.  It will be fun when they can fly up and take the boat back to Seattle too.

 When it was time, we brought up the anchor and headed to Refuge Cove to drop the kids off for their seaplane flight home.   On the way, I created a surprise treat of whipped cream and fresh strawberries.  Everyone loved it! (Thank you Liza for sending the mixer up with Jess!) 

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Refuge Cove was scorching hot and we were all very tired (especially the Captain and the First Mate).  We, unlike Jasmine and David, are not at all used to staying up all night without sleep. But we enjoyed are last bit of time together, drinking iced tea and lemonade and sitting down with cool towels on our necks as we played with the James and the beach ball.

 DSC_5055The seaplane arrived and scooped up our last visitors.  Although we were exhausted, I just couldn’t hang at the Refuge Cove dock with the view of the garbage barge.

 So we rallied, cruised south for an hour, and anchored at Grace Harbor.  We found a calm spot and did not have the energy to shore tie.  Luckily we didn’t need to and we slept soundly for 12 hours.

The next morning we decided to head back up past Dent Island to Blind Channel.  We were in search of a new adventure and some cooler air.  As we headed north the water temperature dropped dramatically and the air cooled deliciously. 

 We found a perfect spot on the chart, “Crawfords Anchorage” next to Erasmus Island, and dropped the hook.  The last couple of days we’ve enjoyed lovely quiet, a beautiful setting, and a yummy dinner at the Blind Channel Resort.  We slept soundly and even had to put the quilt back on the bed to stay warm.

 

Fishing and learning our new downrigger Wednesday’s goal.  So after breakfast, we set up the downrigger on the tender and headed out in search of some fish.  We were told there was some good cod fishing nearby.  Unfortunately, we found no fish, (a seal showed us his catch) but we enjoyed our time on the water, floating, watching the eagles, learning our new equipment and reading.  This afternoon we headed out for a good kayak and ate leftovers and a salad filled with greens, peppers, avocado, scallions, pear, goat cheese, flax seeds and homemade dressing.

 Tomorrow, we are going to do a run to the 800 year-old cedar tree near the Blind Channel Resort and then head to a better spot further south for some salmon fishing. 

It was really big, but the picture is in my phone!

 

Learning to Fish

Jim and I believe that an important part of a successful, long-term relationship is learning new things together.  Accordingly, we are trying to learn how to fish.  Last year we hired a guide out of Dent Island to catch a Salmon.  Lets just say it was a very expensive but wonderful salmon and we learned that we needed a “downrigger” to pull our fishing lure down to the depth that salmon like (below 100).  So this year we asked Ben to install a downrigger on the tender, and this trip we gave it a try. 

We headed to a location just north of Dent Island, in Denim Bay, temporarily anchored the True Love, launched the tender and headed out for an afternoon of fishing.  There were lots of other boats catching fish so it looked promising. 

 First, the Captain and I had to get proficient at using our downrigger (the Captain’s job).  We also had to get proficient and baiting the fishing lures (my job).  We definitely had lots of strikes where the bait was taken or munched in half.   But alas, no fish.   Fishing ourselves on the tender is a lot of work.  Many of those with guides around us in their boats barely moved.  Not us!  Working the downrigger, baiting and driving the small tender in the waves was, surprisingly, exhausting.  But we had a great time singing songs such as “Help! We need some salmon, not just any salmon . . .” or  “I dream of salmon cooking on my grill”, but the fish who clearly not impressed.  Another couple in a small tender came out and caught a good-sized salmon fairly close to us, but no salmon for us.  Apparently, we need more lessons!

 It was a little exciting getting the tender back on the True Love in the wind, waves and strong current, but we mastered it calmly. We decided to head through the Dent rapids using the True Love “second gear” to a previous anchorage we discovered on the south side Stuart Island that works well when the winds are from the northwest.  It held perfectly overnight, although the Captain woke a couple of times to check. 

A McGyver Moment:

Yesterday we needed to change the water filters before we headed out.  Our repairs took us a little longer than anticipated because I tried to top of the pressure in the hydraulic system.  It was reading a bit low.  Unfortunately our pump was broken and when we attached it and tried to pump air in, instead all the air leaked out.  So we had to repair the leaky pump.  It took some wire, some electrical tape and of course some duct tape. That accomplished, we were able to pump the system up just enough to proceed.  We will buy a replacement air pump in Nanaimo.

Don’t Trust the Wave Report.

As we headed out the forecast showed calm winds and only small waves in the Strait of Georgia.  With a bit of a storm coming in, we decided to make the crossing immediately, instead of waiting until Saturday.  But the sea report lied.  It was quite choppy, with waves increasing to 4 feet in the middle!  But we made it last night to Nanaimo where we now spending a lovely day.

The Joy of Sharing Continues!

The Donovan’s arrived at Dent Island about a half of an hour after we docked. It’s always a pleasure being at Dent with its lovely facilities and dramatic location, but watching the troops land by seaplane to join made it even better.

We weren’t sure how James would do I. The seaplane and it was reassuring seeing Jasmine, David and James come out all smiles.

Dent was the perfect place for James to ease into boat life. From enjoying lunch on the deck, exploring the grounds he had a blast. After lunch the Captain took us for a tender adventure to Big Bay for some James rock throwing time. On the way we saw lots of eagles (adult and Juvenile), and three Sea Lions (a first for us and apparently unusual before September).

That evening we ate munchies and leftovers with a hardy salad. The weather was unusually hot almost everywhere, but the breezes at the dock were magically cool.

The super moon rose and David and I attempted to capture it on my camera. It was a brief photographic excursion due to the ferocious dusk Mosquitos.

The next morning we enjoyed a yummy breakfast at the restaurant while James had the dining room all to himself to graze and wander. We all gave True Love a quick bath and window cleaning before heading off to Pendrell Sound for some warm swimming.

On the journey Jasmine and I did a crossfit routine followed by stretches on the bow with our glorious views and warm sun. We enjoyed some yummy dips and ham and cheese roll-ups. James was cutting some teeth and not very interested in chewing so I made him an icy coconut milk and strawberry shake with protein. It hit the spot!

Road Trip in Tasmania

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For some reason my last blog entry cut off the end of our Cairns experience and the beginning of our time n Tasmania. As Jim says, there are a few bugs in the WordPress IPad App.
Nevertheless, we had a great flight out of Lizard Island back to Cairns. We got to ride in the small plane with Taryn, Tom, Captain Sam and the first mate, Hamish. The plane gave us a great view of the coastline as we flew down.

As we approached Cairns the tropical rains began and they really didn’t stop. It’s probably still raining there today. Our pilot, Nicki, was fantastic and gave us a very smooth flight with a gentle landing.

After we checked back into the hotel we took a long shower before heading out for a walk around town, some food and a movie. We dodged the heaviest tropical rainstorms by taking refuge in shops and eateries around town. Cairns is a strange town with both high end shops and rundown vacant areas. We saw the Grand Budapest Hotel which is a strange little movie befitting our location.

We flew to Hobart, changing planes in Melbourne; picked up our car, got our bearings and whilst chanting “stay left” we headed to our hotel: The Henry Jones Art Hotel. It’s a former jam factory that has been remodeled into a great boutique hotel, with lots of old wood paneling and sandstone. Our room was originally Henry Jones’ office and our bathroom the waiting room for the conference area.

After dropping of our bags we headed to the bar and drank local scotch whiskey and ate a yummy antipasto plate while listening to a local musician playing Johnny Cash type music.

This area is a bit like Scotland and South England with town names like Glenorchy, Brighten and Devonport.

In the morning we explored more of the wonderful architecture of our hotel. They have added a glass roof to the huge inner courtyard where we had breakfast, safe and warm from the passing showers. The architects did a fantastic job. This is a great concept for Seattle.

Surrounding the courtyard are a few shops and an art gallery. The hotel is decorated with lots of art from local artists. We slept In a bit (no 6:30 wake up call this morning), enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the courtyard, read the local paper and looked at art before hitting the road around noon for a 3 hour drive to Freycinet National Park. We drove through forested coastline, including curvy fun sections, forests of peppermint trees (they look like Dr. Seuss Pom Pom trees), wine country and then along the shore of Great Oyster Bay to the miniature red granite mountains of the National Park that includes all of the Freycinet Peninsula southeast of Coles Bay.

We saw our first “beware of wildlife sign” with an animal drawing that looked like a kangaroo. But, alas no kangaroo sitings today. We did see lots of road kill, sheep, what had to be the world’s largest back Angus bull, a few coyotes and we think what might be wallabies (small kangaroos) in a field.

Check that. They were definitely wallabies and one just hopped around the corner of our cabin as I write this. Cool!

We checked in at the lodge and drove a short distance to our cabin just in time to enjoy the sunset. Tomorrow we are going to do some hiking for sure.

As the sun goes down today here we want to wish Julie Spady a very happy birthday from down under!

We enjoyed a quick dinner at the lodge with a special scotch/whiskey tasting. The local single malt whiskies are quite good. We especially like the Lark. Chris, our scotch whiskey tasting guide was adorable.

Freycinet National Park

We slept well and woke up a bit late and headed out for our buffet breakfast. Really the only bad food we have had our entire trip. But the croissants were adequate and we had some yogurt and coffee. Then we headed out for our hike with some fruit and other snacks along the way.

Freycinet National Park is named after the French sub-lieutenant on a ship sent by Napoleon in 1802 to explore the “Great South Land.” Not bad for a Sub-Lieutenant!

We decided to do the full 11 kilometer (6 mile) hike over the small mountains to Wine Glass Bay on the Tasman Sea, back across the isthmus to Hazard Beach on Great Oyster Bay, and then along the hills above the shore back to the parking lot. It really was an awesome hike.

To begin, you hike up about 1000 feet through unusual red granite formations and interesting foliage including lots of peppermint and tea trees to a spectacular overlook above wine glass bay. Then you leave the crowds behind as you descend down do the beautiful beach of Wineglass Bay were we put our feet in the Tasman Sea and waved toward New Zealand. We saw a very friendly Wallaby, dolphins, oyster catchers and of course seagulls. We sat in the warm sun and ate some snacks before heading for the isthmus trail to Hazard Beach. The bird song was lovely and we heard all kinds of elusive flying creatures. After repeated attempts we did finally get get a fuzzy photo of one of the very large black cockatoos. As we walked through Hazard Beach we also saw a scampering Tasmania Pademelon.

We still had quite of bit of the hike left and as usual for us we were cutting it tight for daylight. It also appeared we were the last ones on the trail. I did pack one headlamp, but left the other behind because of weight, which was ridiculous. At this point Jim and I are both thinking to ourselves (but not voicing out loud) “what were we thinking?”

So, we picked up the pace and made it out just fine while watching the beautiful late sun as we walked above Great Oyster Bay (almost as big as San Francisco Bay but almost completely undeveloped). As the Aussies say “no worries, no drama, it’s all good!”

When we exited the trail we were famished and decided to head past our cabin another 10 minutes to the little town of Coles Bay. We passed a quaint little restaurant that advertised wood-fired pizza with a view of the bay. The proprietor was cleaning the windows and told us he opened in 30 minutes. He handed us a “takeaway” menu (they don’t say “takeout” here) and it looked perfect so we drove on to the end of the road and parked at a little warf to watch the sunset and stretch.

Dinner was scrumptious and the local wine Devine. We shared a thin crust pizza, some local fresh fish and chips, salad and sorbet. Yum!

When we got back to our cabin, we packed for today’s early drive and flight out of Launceston (north-central Tasmania) and then soaked in our tub before bed.

Our itinerary for today told us it was a 2.5 hour drive to the airport and we needed to check in by 9:50 AM. We grabbed some fruit, coffee and croissants for the drive and headed out for a drive along the north end of Great Oyster Bay and then across some beautiful high plateau ranch land on the way to the airport.

It was early morning and the soft pastel light bathed the trees and the countryside. We also so a lot of road kill. Jim coined the game, “Guess that road kill!” Wallaby, Possum, Wallaby, wallaby, unknown, pademelon. Not surprisingly given the large amount of road kill we saw an extremely large vulture-like bird – as big as any giant Condor either of us had ever seen. This bird was much bigger than an Eagle and appeared to be very well fed.

We thought this would be a great place to sell a t-shirt we once bought at a truck stop in the middle-of-nowhere Arizona, that said “Road-kill Cafe – you kill ’em, we cook ’em!” Gruesome.

We made it to the airport with time to spare and avoided adding to the roadside carnage.

We are now on the plane to Melbourne. Our last Qantas flight. As we sat down we were serenaded by the expressive and loud sounds of two very large parrots in the bay behind us. That’s a first.

We are looking forward to our exploration of Melbourne over the next 3 days before driving up the coast to Sydney for our flight to the Cook Islands – our last stop on the way home.

It’s a little overcast here in Melbourne with rain forecast for tomorrow , but we had fantastic warm weather in Tasmania, which is really lucky for that far south in late fall. It should be perfect weather for museums.

We also need to wish John Spady and Alan Middleton a very happy birthday too!

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Nelson

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As I write this post we are stuck in the Nelson airport for fog. It’s a small airport with no security and they have stopped all check-in. The flight board still says everything is on time, but clearly it is not.

This gives me some time to include little tidbits of things we have forgotten to include in the blog before I launch into our wonderful visit in Nelson.

Driving is going very well, and signage is extremely good everywhere. One of our favorite signs next to a rest-stop-like turn out on our drive to Rotorua said,

“Livestock effluent dump. No human waste.”

Love it!

Airport tips and bags through New Zealand.

Carry-on bags don’t really work in NZ.
First, there is no security or liquid checks throughout New Zealand so you don’t need to worry about small liquids. Second, the carry-on bag size isn’t really important. It’s the weight, which is ridiculously light 7kg (a few pairs of underwear and the vitamins). My camera weighs almost 1.5kg. We’ve transferred everything we can to our medium sized check-in bags (which should have been bigger). They seem to be making an exception for us. It’s times like these that I wish they just had a total weigh in. The traveler and bags on a big scale. We would pass with flying colors.

Onto our lovely Nelson experience.

Although the weather has not been great in the “almost always sunny” Nelson area we have thoroughly enjoyed our beautiful stay here. We landed, picked up our car and drove to the Bronte Estates. Nestled in apple orchards and on Tasman Bay our accommodations were again almost perfect. The Bronte farm has been in the family for over 100 years. They grow apples and pears and have added guest accommodations in the last 10 years.

The space-time continuum has created a wonderful surprise: delicious, crisp, fresh-crop New Zealand apples, They are coming to a grocery near you soon.

We spent our afternoon doing a bit of wine tasting and discovered we like the taste of Sauvignon Blanc. We visited the local glass gallery, but unfortunately we are so spoiled with the exceptional high quality of the work in Seattle that we were a bit underwhelmed. We enjoyed some afternoon downtime and took in the view of the big tidal shift. I caught a great photo of a bird we have never seen. It’s common name is grass hen. But it looks like a mixture of a duck and a chicken but it had great coloring black and cobalt blue with red head. Rested we headed out to a yummy dinner on the Maupa Warf at the Jellyfish restaurant . While eating we got to watch a troop of Boy Scouts getting their nighttime fishing merit badges. Complete with head lamps and great enthusiasm they were perfect entertainment.

Yesterday, we woke to pretty rainy weather for a planned kayak and hike in Abel Tasman National Park. First we headed up to the main house for breakfast. The house was quite formal and the table was set for just the two of us. We felt a bit underdressed in our outdoor adventure attire.

Well fed, we headed off to the park. The rain died down and the calm winds made for some fun sea kayaking along the coast with our guide Sophie and an adventuring young woman from Shanghai, “Eye Lee Ann.” Although Jim and I kayak quite a bit we haven’t used rudder and I liked the ease of steering that way.

We kayaked to a place called split apple rock and explored the nearby caves a bit. After kayaking back we ate lunch and then boarded our tour boat for a drop-off at our afternoon hike site. Because of the big tides the boats come close to shore and deploy a long metal gangplank.

There are no resident dolphins, whales or Orcas, but we were luckily enough to encounter a pod of 10 transient dolphins. They hadn’t seen any dolphin for over a month and the crew was thrilled.

They also love their small group of black seals. Of course this is quite underwhelming for us where seals are everywhere, but everything is relative and here in Nelson seeing a seal is a special treat.

We were dropped off at “Tonga Quarry” beach to begin a short hike south from there there to Medlands beach where we would be picked up. It was only 5 Km but as with most coastal hikes, there were lots of ups and downs.

We loved our time in this unusual and extremely dense coastal forest which included lots of fern trees and other unusual plants. We were alone most of the time only encountering very few very strong hikers with very big packs doing the longer trek. The bird songs were wonderful and the weather cooperated. We arrived at our pick-up spot about 20 minutes early and while we were preparing to stretch when we were set upon by very active sand fleas. So we waited for our boat and stretched while standing in the cool salt water which foiled the fleas.

This hike was a great little warm-up for our big, 3-day, 24-mile Hollyford Track hike beginning tomorrow morning out of Queenstown. It includes a short helicopter tour and a scenic flight to Milford Sound (weather permitting). Passover begins our last night of the hike so will will bring our Haggadah with us.

The family is spread out this year for Passover. Jasmine and James will be in CA with my parents while David travels to Charleston for business. Saul and Jess are putting on their own Seder with friends in the mountains. We wish everyone a joyful and meaningful Passover as we all deal with our own personal challenges and life lessons. Next year in Jerusalem!

We will check-in again after our trek. Until then we will have no internet or phone.

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Rotorua

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The sulphur smell of Rotorua is unavoidable. It’s so strange to be in a small city intertwined in an active geothermal environment. Steam escapes everywhere. We arrived at the Black Swan Lakeside Inn and were instantly enchanted by our host Gretchen and the lovely facility. Once again Trevor from Southern Crossings hit it out of the park!

We had been eating fish in Bora Bora and s we drove to Rotorua we passed a lot of sheep and cattle which definitely made us crave steak. Is that wrong?

Anyway after we dropped off our bags and washed up we were ready to head out to eat and Gretchen directed us to “1842” a sweet little restaurant with yummy steak!

We slept very well listening to the sounds of the lake. I have had some trouble sleeping more than 5 hours. My body clock was waking up at my normal time in Seattle so it was a relief to get some extra sleep.

Rotorua has been experiencing a drought but luckily for them we brought along our Seattle Rain Fairies. It wasn’t cold, just misty. The heavy rains and thunder storms held off until last night and today (our travel day to Nelson).

Fortified with a scrumptious full breakfast, including really good croissant, we headed out to a day focused on local history.

As we drove to the Maori church by the lake (chanting “stay left” and “turn left to left” or “turn right to left”, not to mention “oh god another traffic circle – which way are those cars merging?”) you could see the thermal steam escaping everywhere. Yellowstone National Park mixed with a small city of about 60,000 people.

The Church had beautiful carvings and another Maori war memorial and cemetery.

From there we headed to the Rotorua Museum a small collection where you learn about the healing thermal waters that drew people from all over the world both before and after a major volcano eruption in the 1880’s. They have a great little movie complete with moving seats to enhance the feeling of being in the earthquake. And the basement exhibit of the early piping systems for the mud and steam baths were really quite well done.

There is also a great Maori exhibit with both historic and modern features. The picture below of the glass sail boat is from a modern version of the Maori stories.

The museum features an exhibit of the 28th Maori Brigade that was mobilized to fight in WWII in 1939. They were sent into very difficult situations in Italy and took very heavy casualties.

After the museum we drove on to see the tallest geyser I the area at Te Puia Our guide Carla was an excellent teacher and guide. We even got to see a live Kiwi on the move which is very rare because they sleep 20 hours a day. They are nocturnal, but they shift day and night in the exhibit for our human pleasure. He geyser here goes of every hour but not at set times. But thanks to Carla’s expert timing we arrived just in time for the show. We ended with a tour of the Maori art school and watched them carve there beautiful wood sculpture.

It was about 5 when we left Te Pao for the highly recommended Polynisian spa and the healing waters. We were pretty tired and Jim who had never tried the natural spa experience was a bit unsure. But he was game for trying it. There were many pool choices, but we choose the Lakeside pools. It was fabulous, peaceful and instantly soothing. We soaked in the pools with views of the lake, flocks of birds and geysers in the distance while we watched the sunset. There were also these magical heated reclining chairs which Jim found perfect for a quick nap. Completely relaxed and healed by the soothing waters e ventured back to the Black Swan. On the way back to the stopped for some yummy Indian food that we took back to our room.

This morning we rose to another yummy breakfast before heading off by small plane to Nelson via Wellington. When I was younger I was afraid of going on small planes. I had always experienced motion sickness and between nausea and feeling awful from the Dramamine it petrified me. But that’s all gone now and quite honestly we could not do this trip if we couldn’t take small planes. It wasn’t until Scott and Jaycee Crowell shared the Grand Canyon trip by small plane and helicopter that I learned Imcould travel,like this. thank you Scott and Jaycee.

Our flight was delayed by weather but they held the connection.

Again, Trevor has found us the most charming place nestled I the vineyards of Upper Moultere by the sound. The tide is way out and will come in about 5 feet tonight. We dropped off our bags and are off to some wine tasting and art galleries with a bit of lunch.

Tomorrow we have a full day of kayaking and boating in Abel Tasman Park. the adventure continues.

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