Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ghost towns and Fiords

No pictures to post right now because this post is coming in via Ham Radio. Just a quick note to say that all is well on board.
The past week we've been to a neat ghost town called Ocean Falls. Our experience there was made even better by running into one of the few ghosts left, who showed us around. We then headed to Alexander MacKenzie park in Elcho harbour. This is where Alexander MacKenzie figured out he was actually on the west coast in 1793. He left an inscription on a rock which is still visible today. After a night there we've spent the last two nights hanging out in Eucott bay. While we only have 2 feet under the keel this bay has a big big positive. Fresh clean hot (very hot) water flowing from a spring. We've had 2 or 3 soaks a day in the rock pools overlooking snow capped peaks. Despite being a weekend and within small boat distance from Bella Coola we've been pleasantly surprised by the small number of people here. What a fantastic place! We were even treated to another dinner show of a Mama bear and two cubs.
Today we are waiting a bit for the tide to come up so we can get out of the bay. We will then spend a couple of days working our way down Burke channel heading back out to the open ocean.
We'll post some pictures when we get back to civilization. At this point it's hard to predict when that will be... There was talk of staying here in Eucott for the winter...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Silver Linings

Shearwater Warrior Pole
So, Shearwater was not on our list of places to visit this summer.  As luck would have it, we've now been here twice.  First, last week to accompany our friends sans rudder to the haul out facility and now to search for the part for the damn windlass.  It turned out, there were a few upsides to this latest detour.

Charlotte got to spend some time peeing on real grass (I can`t describe how excited she is about that) and we managed to score 5 lbs of fresh prawns from the roommate of the guy selling guy the windlass part in the hardware store. Serendipity, or good timing, whichever, we thank you for our tasty dinner!
I (Karina), of course, had to use my amazing powers of negotiation to get the prawns (ha, ha, if only David L at work could have seen it). And much to my complete astonishment, it worked!  We BBQ`d half of the 50 prawns 2 ways and had a feast.  The sun even came out in the evening to help us celebrate.
Silver linings.

Just another day at work

Lots of you following us in these early stages of our travels have emailed us about how lucky we are to have left our jobs and do nothing but play all day.  We respond to those emails that we haven't left work, we've simply changed our titles.  Karina and I are now "Boat technicians".
Killing flies in the garage

What are our responsibilities you might ask?  Well it varies with any given day.  Today we completed the following:

  • Dismantled and dried fridge controller.  Put it back together and said a prayer.
  • Dismantled main sheet winch and sealed leaking bolt that fried the fridge controller.  Put it back together and said a prayer.
  • Dismantled anchor windlass to find sheared part not listed in manual.  Headed to "hardware" store back in Shearwater and said a prayer.
  • Returned from store victorious with part needed for windlass motor.  Put it back together and said a prayer.
  • Emptied our lazarette (also known as our garage) and tightened our steering cables.
  • Reorganized our lazarette and despite knowing the laws of entropy said a prayer.

Praying the windlass motor doesn't land on my head in the guest room
You may notice that every job completed ends with a prayer to the boat gods.  As a scientist and IT guy neither of us are actually trained for our current job descriptions.  We figure by praying we keep a low profile with respect to the boat gods and when they decide to smite someone it will be the guy from Edmonton next to us (currently running his generator).
The prayer goes something like this:
Our father, boat god up there, 
your kingdom come, 
your will be done.  
Thanks be to thee for giving us our small daily lesson of how to fix things we didn't know existed before now.  
As always lead us not into tempting rock gardens and deliver us from evil seas.  

The long and winding road

With a couple days of hot weather and no wind predicted we decided to make a run up to the head of Roscoe Inlet.  Just at the mouth of the inlet we were treated to a very special show by two humpbacks.  If there was ever a reason to spend the money on expensive camera gear, this was it.  The pictures we have don`t do it justice but we do have a small movie that we'll upload at some point.  One of the items on my bucket list was to sail to Alaska to see Humpbacks bubble feeding.  We only had to sail half way and I can now cross this item off my list. (Side note to Karina.... this doesn't mean we don`t need to sail to Alaska at some point)
Bubble feeding is when a group of sea mammals corral sea food by working together to create a tall cylinder of bubbles.  We saw 4 seals doing it in the Broughtons but Humpbacks are the kings of this sport when they create the corral and then fling their tonnes of body mass up out of the water, mouths wide open.  Despite only two, they put on quite a show for about a half hour right beside our seemly tiny sailboat.  Spectacular!
We'd heard Roscoe Inlet was a neat place with warm water for swimming.  Neat didn't do it justice.  Envision a place never touched by man surrounded by 3000 foot granite domes and 27 degree (yes in Celsius) clear fresh water over the salt.

Sure, every paradise must have its vices and there were "a few" horse flies around but this brought back fond memories of Ontario.  We simply put Charlotte out on deck as bait and she kept them at bay (how many flies can a beagle swallow before she dies?).

and on...
The inlet goes on...

and on...
and on
and on

Required yearly shot of Gary
Yes! 27 deg C

Selfie in Paradice
 We had a couple of idyllic days before a couple of other boats invaded our special place and we were forced to put clothes back on.  As always, wary of open "beaches" (aka, crappy rock beaches with tall sea grass) we kept Charlotte on a short leash while ashore and were rewarded with a black bear mom and her cub dinner time show from the safety of our boat.

The next morning we awoke to the pitter patter of rain drops on our hatch..... For the next two days it rained and rained and rained and rained.  It then rained some more.  We've been pretty lucky on our trip with regards to weather so far and I guess the gods decided we`d had it good enough.  The good news is the rain pointed out some good areas in the deck that need sealing and reminded us what happens when water meets electricity.  Even better news is we were able to dry out our fridge controller and didn't have to feed all of our frozen meat to the crabs.

Rain drops keep fallin on my head
yet another one
one of the thousands of 2000 ft waterfalls
Oh, and another piece flew off our windlass...and now it doesn't work.  Karina invented a few new swear words and tried hard not to cry in frustration.  And Gary learned how to set our 73 lb anchor using the windlass in manual mode.
Beautiful even in the rain

Bella Bella, Another world

Wagasila Welcome Center
We spent a few days hanging around Bella Bella, also known as Wagasila.  This year our arrival happened to coincide with the Heiltsik Nation "Qatuwas".  Yes I might be speaking a different language.  Translated, coastal natives from around the Pacific, including Hawaii, Washington, Alaska and even a small contingent from New Zealand arrived in beautifully hand carved canoes for a week long party.
Rows upon rows of Canoes
Most paddled at least from the south coast of BC up to here, a distance of about 500 NM.   It took us 4 weeks to make the same journey in a well equiped and very comfortable sailboat complete with an engine, running water and comfortable beds.  These people paddled in three weeks with no comforts what so ever rain or shine.
Once they arrived in Bella Bella there was a day long ceremony where each tribal leader asked for permission to approach the beach in peace as friends of the hosts.  After paddling in a relatively small canoe with 15 other stinky people for three weeks we were amazed at the restraint shown by the 35 to 40 canoes.  Symbolic ceremony is very important to all involved.
Floating Artwork
One of the alien things most "white people" including us had a hard time reconciling was that ALL were welcome.  Having nothing to offer except our selves we felt strange being included in the festivities and chose to watch the pageantry from a slight distance.  When they all went for meals we went back to the boat and had our own meals.  A couple of other boats had none of these North American hangups and jumped in with both feet, getting fully involved, fed and housed for the full week.  We are sure they were better for it and during our travels over the next few years vow to try to remove these silly notions that have been ingrained in us about etiquette and go "Native".
As it was, what we did experience was amazing and seeing their culture thriving despite all of our ancestors attempts to destroy it was pretty neat.
If you are ever in a place where one of these events is being held, be braver than us and get fully involved as if you were one of them.  You will be accepted into their families for sure.

Protocol (ie Party in the field)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hakai to the Spider group and Kayak cove

Sea Rover safely in Kayak Cove
We've just made it into the Bella Bella/Shearwater area and will have cell coverage today.  Over the past few day's we've had a wonderful time buddy boating with a couple of new friends.  Two days ago we poked our nose out from the metropolis of Calvert island and really went bush.  A few days in the Spider group and you realize that you are never really safe no matter how good the charts are.  We chose what we thought was a conservative entrance into the group and poked our way through rocks and kelp with Karina keeping a sharp lookout on the bow.  I saw a few numbers on the depth sounder that didnt jive with the chart and was starting to get a bit worried.
Celebration dinner
Right then we got a call...  "Sea Rover II, Sea Rover II, we've hit a rock and have lost our rudder".  Well, now Im really worried about our situation as well, but we stand by, our minds racing about how we can help.  Luckily both boats managed to make our way to a reasonable anchorage and after getting secured worked together to formulate an evac plan.  An evening of good wine and chocolate cures all damages to the heart.  Unfortunately fiberglass doesn't regrow once removed so in working with Don over email we managed to connect with Shearwater Marina and confirm that they could haul out our new friends.
Our new Friends underway with only a Hydrovane for a
Those that have spent any time on Sea Rover, know that Im a big fan of the Hydrovane wind vane system (info here).  Our friend had a hydrovane on their boat and were able to use this auxiliary rudder to steer the boat over the next two days despite completely missing their main rudder.  Yet another great testament for a great system.
We spent last night in Kayak cove and living up to its name we met a few kayakers on the beach who were planning on heading south around Cape Caution to Port Hardy.  I certainly have a great respect for their plan....  much braver than we ever were in our Kayaks.  We were happy to donate a few gallons of water to their cause.
Hopefully we'll be able to navigate the masses here at Bella Bella for the Native canoe fest.  We may spend a few days in this area assuming we can find a place to drop the hook.

Hike to Hakai Lookout

What happens to your face when you get bitten
 by the bugs here
While we were at the Hakai institute we didnt spend all day on the computer writing our blog.  One of the big reasons we love that area is the great hiking.  On our last day there we headed up to the weather station on Calvert island.  What a great view.  Here's a taste.  We'll post the rest when we get to solid internet.

View from Hakai Lookout

View from Hakai Lookout

Endless views

Endless pool at 1000 ft above sea level

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Trouble in Hakai

OH NO!!!!!!!
For those that know the significance of this picture.  You understand the pain and suffering that will be endured for the rest of our trip.  For those that don't get it...  You never will.
Oh...a piece flew off our windlass as well...

Friday, July 11, 2014

Flashback: Crossing Cape Caution

Being the techie guy that I am, Karina is at a big disadvantage when it comes to posting our experiences.  In the interest of keeping things fair, I'm going to set up a page similar to he said/she said where we both get to write our version as we remember it.  This will probably be one of those posts.  We leave it to the reader to decide on which version is most likely correct.
Malcolm and Dina left us to our own vices in the wee hours on the morning of the 6th.  Having listened to the weather on the night before we were surprised when we checked the weather again that morning and found the predicted blow actually was happening.  20-30 SE increasing to 35 with waves 1-2 meters increasing to 3.  WOW, I thought... we might actually get to sail.  Karina obviously thought something different because she wasn't smiling when I suggested we leave the dock.  Like the good husband I am, I read these signals being sent and changed my suggestion to "lets wait till after lunch".  
We continued to watch the hourly reports and I could see the winds were certainly decreasing.  43 at 10 am, 42 at 11 am and 41 at noon.  I tried again to suggest that we should leave the dock.  For sure the winds will have died by the time we get out there...  in fact it might already be to late!  At 3 pm with the winds dropping well below 35 I tried once more but quickly gave up.  Obviously Karina was too tired from packing up the house and needed one more rest day.  I went up to the office and paid for one more day at the dock, vowing that we would sail tomorrow whatever the weather was.  
Sea Rover Wing on Wing
The next morning I bounced out of bed at 6 am, got the boat and Karina ready for a 6:30 am departure and we caught the last bit of the ebbing tide out of the bay.  While it was a touch squally and the conditions were not nearly as good had we left the day before, we still had a great sail from dock to bay around Cape Caution to Fury Cove.
Aptly named, like Nahwitti Bar and Cape Flattery, Cape Caution strikes fear into the hearts of all boaters.  To venture past any of these points you must upgrade your insurance and say good bye to your loved ones.  Many spend their whole boating careers never making it past these points.  Having done the trip last year we were now old salts and as I expected our trip north was easy peasy.
Karina seemed happy sailing the boat downwind for a change so I went and tried to have a nap.  This being her first time downwind sailing, I was a bit nervous in her ability and was forced on numerous occasions to jump up and make sure she didn't switch back to upwind sailing by mistake.  
Fishing fleet chasing us down
As it was my worry was unfounded.  With the fishing fleet nipping at our heels and eagles trying to land on our rig, 10 hours after departure we rolled into Fury Cove. We spent a wonderful few days sitting on one of the many empty beaches on this coast and Karina made me a nice dinner to make up for missing the really good sailing. 
Eagle requesting approach vector
Karina's version (ie, the truth):  The beginning part of our Port Hardy day was largely correct - it was blowing well over 40 knots with 5 foot chop outside the harbour.  It was supposed to subside in the afternoon, but was still blowing 42 knots at 3pm.  Now, Gary was correct, the wind was blowing from the right direction, but to get to the island group that was to be our destination that day ('it's only a 3 hour sail', he said - we all know how well those turn out...) we would be going completely broadside to the 5 foot seas (with 4 second periods) for about 2.5 hours.  I probably don't need to say that those are bloody uncomfortable conditions.  So, after some 'discussion', we decided to stay another night (I should add that none of the other offshore boats at the marina left the dock that day either).  I went to bed at 10pm while Gary stayed up to do some banking and download some charts and stuff he hadn't had a chance to do before we left Vancouver.  I woke up at 4:30am and realized I was alone in bed... Gary was STILL on the computer.  As the alarm was set for 5am so we could be ready for a 6am departure, I suggested Gary head to bed to get a bit of sleep (seeing as how we were going to sail one of those 'you might die if you go there' places he talks about in his post).  He went to bed and I got up.  I got the boat and dog ready to go, then woke him up at 5:55am.  I motored off the dock at 6am with a very bleary eyed husband handling the lines.   
Gary did manage to stay awake until we were out in Queen Charlotte Sound.  Then he slept for the next 4 hours while I learned how to sail our boat downwind.  With the help of our new crew member "Otto" (our fancy new autopilot), I gybed the boat back and forth, back and forth.  It was a great sail in 20-25 knots of wind, in 2-3 foot seas with a moderate swell (which apparently means 1-2m).  All in all, pretty perfect.  We arrived in Fury Cove - surprisingly there were only 4 other boats there so we got a great spot reasonably close to the beach.  Overall a successful day. 

Flashback: A week in the Broughtons

As we float in various beautiful places this summer we will be writing a few updates on what we've been up to over the past couple of months.  We'll also sort through pictures and post them when we get to faster internet.  Here is a blurb on our last week with Malcolm and Dina on board and first week with Karina and Charlotte on our new home.

June 28th to July 4th
The instant Karina finished work (I think she even snuck out early) she was racing for the ferry on a long weekend.  All of those who travel to the island will know the joy in that.  No stress on her part though because she knew she wouldn't see her office for a long time.  After picking up Charlotte, fantastic cookies and cushions from Don and Winnie she made the long drive up to Port McNeill.  Malcolm, Dina and I were in Port McNeill madly trying to make the boat presentable for their arrival.  Unfortunately she arrived 1 hour early so I was in the midst of an oil change, laundry hadn't been started yet and provisions not yet purchased.  No complaints, we were finally together again on our new home.

Mortuary Poles at Alert Bay
U'mista Cultural Center
The next morning we awoke at the crack of 10 and made our way over to Alert Bay, a wonderful native village on Cormorant island.  We pawned Charlotte off on Malcolm and Dina and headed to the U'mista cultural center.  This awe-inspiring place should be a mandatory visit for all Canadians.  We had time to check out an exhibit on the residential school located just behind the museum and the main display showing the potlach regalia confiscated in 1922 and slowly returned when us Canadians came to our senses.  No pictures were allowed but there was a digital archivist there shooting the display in 3d so I'm sure it will be available online by next year.  You can find out more about U'mista here.
Hanson island was our next stop on the hunt for the elusive killer whale.  Failing as usual in this endeavour we tucked ourselves into a beautiful bay off the northeast corner of Hanson and sat waiting.  Surprisingly we were rewarded with a parade of at least 1000 pacific white sided dolphins heading up Knight inlet.  The guides in the area haven't seen anything like these numbers all together before so we all felt privileged to be included in their gathering.  Quite a sight to be seen.
Sea Rover at rest, Hanson Island
Fallen Totem At Village Island
Over the next couple of days we floated over to Village island and checked out the abandoned native village (where some of the potlach regalia was taken).  We now know how quickly nature will take over if all humans get wiped off the planet.  I think this site is best viewed by helicopter as the blackberry and salal have hidden most of the clearings where homes were.  There are still a couple of "modern" houses left standing and its easy to imagine what a great site this was less than 30 years ago.    
Next we headed over to Sointula on Malcolm island.  On the way there we were treated to a nice display of humpbacks playing.  We shut the engine down and drifted with the sails up while they fed around us.  Still the killer whales eluded us, with reports of sightings much too far for us to follow at our max speed of 6 knots.
Fresh garden stand, Sointula
Sointula's  moniker should be labeled "The Friendliest Place On Earth".  Our arms got tired from waving to everyone driving by on this small island.  It would have taken my mom about 20 minutes to find out everything about everyone here.  Other Mom would have been equally impressed by the garden stands that lined the driveways.  That evening Malcolm and I tried to convince Karina and Dina to put their Euchre champion title on the line, but they refused to risk it and we tortured Karina with Hearts instead.  The next morning we left Malcolm and Dina to catch the ferry back to Port McNeill and juggled cars and boats up to Port Hardy.  We had one last wonderful evening with them as they caught the ferry the next morning to head over to Haida Gwaii for a different adventure.
Having spent the last month and a half with them it was surprisingly sad to see them go.  Those of you that have stayed with us know we usually stand fast to our 4 day rule.  We have now changed that to you are welcome to stay as long as you like...  we'll just put you to work on the boat.  Thanks cant be said enough for the good company let alone the vast number of projects that were completed with their help.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Free at last

At West Beach, Calvert Island
A little celebration is in order (albeit belated).  A couple of weeks ago, Karina finished her last day at work for a while, hopped in the car and raced up to her new home on Sea Rover II.  It's been a long time coming but we are now officially boat vagabonds.  We'll have more posts of what's happened to get us here but for now let's talk about the present.
This link shows you where we are right now.  Yes, you have to zoom way out to find a town.   This is our second year in a row visiting the Hakai Institute.  If you know nothing about them you can find info here
Anyway last night we fell asleep listening to the soothing voice of Environment Canada, Karina must have heard it better than I did because she was awake at 5am turning it on again to see if the predicted winds really were still coming.  At 6am she dragged me out of bed suggesting that if I wanted to go anywhere today it had to be NOW!  Like a good husband I obliged and we left Fury cove at the crack of 7.  My good behaviour was rewarded with a fantastic sail under reefed main and jib back and forth up Fitz Hugh sound.   We have now sailed more in the last week than we did all of last year. 
Despite seeing whales (off in the distance) and sea lions leaping, Karina got tired of seeing the same lighthouse on every other tack so we turned on the engine and motored the last 4 miles to Pruth Bay (where we are now).   The winds have picked up a bit and its now blowing 20-25 out there but we are wearing shorts and t-shirts in our little cockpit bubble.  (Yes we love our new enclosure).
 If you see this blog post over the next couple of days you can see Sea Rover way in the background from Hakai's dock cam.  They are generous enough to beam satellite internet out into the anchorage and have opened their property to cruisers so we might spend a few days here talking long walks on the sunny empty beaches and updating our blog.That's all for now, stay tuned for reruns of the past few months as we write them. 
Karina's rebuttal:  I just happened to wake up at 6am this morning (not 5, as Gary suggests), and yes, I did listen to the weather and demand we go NOW.  Now, in Garyland, meant 2 hours from 'now'… ie, 7:45am when he finally got his butt in gear.  But yes, it was a good sail, even if the scenery repeated itself for a while… And even if it was all uphill (I've had a taste of downwind sailing now, and I want more…)