After clearing in with Customs by telephone at the Prince Rupert Rowing & Yacht Club we explored the town. A neat place with some useful marine & fishing gear shops, a good supermarket and the all important liquor store, the town seemed well cared for and the people were friendly. Sadly once again the persistent rain settled in along with a blanket of fog so thick we couldn’t see past the end of the docks. Not good conditions to be moving on in, so we stayed a couple of days which gave us the opportunity to explore a little and visit the excellent museum.
With fishing license, newly acquired folding crab pot and a sturdy fishing net on board we headed out of Prince Rupert as the fog finally lifted and rain temporarily subsided.
Our day-hop anchorages took us through the Grenville Channel, 45 miles long with beautiful scenery and three excellent anchorages to break up the motoring.
My favourite was Baker Inlet which is vast and beautiful, after transiting the Watts Narrows the deserted inlet stretches 5 miles in to the head of the bay. The narrows at the entrance form a dog-leg passage with steep-sided rocky banks covered in dense trees, so steep sided in fact that we lost our GPS position half-way through. Although it is narrow, the channel is deep and with clear water I could see the rocky ledges to avoid from the bow. Once through, we made our way to the head of the bay, a backdrop of tall mountains with numerous waterfalls leading down to streams which flow into the bay. This place is absolutely stunning and very remote, no other boats or inhabitants for miles, just how we like it. With more adverse weather forecast we stayed here for a couple of days while it passed over this very protected inlet. Our small crab pot caught eleven Dungeness crabs on the first night, we put seven back as they were under-size but the four we kept were delicious. Thank god for ‘The River Cottage’ fish book we have onboard, for instructions on how to kill and cook them, as this is a new experience for us.
It was difficult dragging ourselves away from such an idyllic and secluded spot, although the next anchorage at Verney Falls was just as spectacular with plenty of wildlife. We spotted a solitary seal beneath the falls hunting and catching salmon, when he surfaced we noticed he only had one eye. His left eye was missing with some tissue protruding, either an injury or perhaps a defect. Either way it didn’t seem to affect his ability to catch fish. When we left the anchorage the following day there were a dozen or so seals lounging on the rocks at the entrance, I wondered if our little fella was among them or whether he was an outcast because he was different. I have time to ponder these things when we are under motor!
The last day in Grenville Channel was spent in thick fog, feeling our way through the channel under radar supervision, not much good for sight-seeing. This channel is supposed to be a busy commercial highway, although we only passed two fishing boats and one ferry the entire length of the Grenville. Once out of the channel the fog started to lift and the sun tried it’s hardest to burn through some lingering cloud, we crossed over Wright Sound and into McKay Reach then Fraser and Graham Reach with some wonderful humpback sightings. Several groups of 4 or 5 whales were feeding along the rocky shores and we passed one fin-slapping, it was great to see so many after having had a whale-free couple of weeks. This is the first time we noticed ‘the smell’, when up close and personal their halitosis stirs thoughts of being at the zoo in the elephant compound (I would imagine). It stinks, but is it their breath or the other end? Something else for me to ponder on as we continue south under motor. We arrived at our next anchorage in Khutze Inlet rather late in the day so didn’t have time to explore. Another absolute beauty, reminding me of Cannery Cove in Alaska with a valley behind the drying head of the inlet and a lovely waterfall. The only thing spoiling the view were the other three boats sharing it, we’ve got rather used to our anchorages being exclusive! After setting our crab pot just before dark we heard a chilling sound echoing through the forested mountains. Coming up on deck and listening again we realised it was a wolf howling his heart out, he carried on for ten minutes as we listened and watched, trying to pinpoint the location. It changed pitch a couple of times, I couldn’t be sure if it was another wolf replying or the same one trying to make out he wasn’t alone. Another magic moment sealed forever in my memory bank.
Another great moment happened shortly after anchoring at Rescue Bay on Susan Island, we noticed a strange bubbling sound and then splashing. It took me a little while scanning with binoculars to find the culprits, two humpbacks feeding and lunging themselves out of the water. Luckily for us they were headed towards the entrance of the anchorage still feeding, it was too good an opportunity to miss so we hopped in the dinghy to get a closer look. ‘That smell’ again filled the air, and the bubbling water gave us a split seconds notice of the lunging open mouth about to surface.
The weather took another downward turn so we pushed on through Perceval Narrows and into the Seaforth Channel where we were overtaken by a huge cruise ship in persistent and cold rain, at last we had wind but it was on the nose and we weren’t in the mood for tacking. Discovery Cove on Cunningham Island was our next hidey hole in time for a southerly gale coming up. This large bay has several nooks to tuck into, having the place to ourselves we chose the east side of the bay believing we would get the best protection and have the most swinging room. The first night was quiet, clouds raced overhead while we had just a slight breeze. We had an odd encounter in the afternoon when an anonymous creature screamed and gurgled from the dense forest. At first I thought it may be a humanoid playing tricks trying to scare us, but it continued on and off for a few hours and sounded like a creature choking on something and clearly suffering. The thought of something being caught in a trap crossed my mind, especially as I am reading a great book called ‘Animal Stories’ by Alaskan writer Bill Sherwonit with true tales of Wolverines being trapped, but we concluded it must just be a ‘monster’ and neither of us were prepared to investigate. As the blackness of the second night enveloped us and the BC (Bloody Cold) rain settled in again, a couple of random gusts rocketed down from the mountains blowing the bow off, setting us side on to the wind almost healed over. We checked our instruments, all still looked ok and our position held. It was a windy night with torrential rain, by morning the trickling streams flowing into the bay were raging torrents and the random gusts started again. Fierce katabatic winds sent us over several times, sending things flying indoors. We should of course be used to that in a sailing boat but have had weeks of motoring and flat calm anchorages so things aren’t stowed away. Instruments on again, only we weren’t where we should be, we were dragging the anchor. Braving the elements we re-anchored and set the anchor again but I noticed the chain came up almost clean with only a small amount of mud stuck on the anchor. Most of our anchorages have been thick sticky mud which takes a fair amount of hosing off. Still the gusts continued and we immediately started to drag again. After a 100 metres of dragging we knew we would have to seek another spot in the bay, having explored it by dinghy the previous day we thought we would try a smaller nook tucked behind a little islet just around the corner. This proved to be a good move, although it was a tight little spot the gusts diminished and the anchor set well, we didn’t budge an inch and rode the storm out comfortably. When we left the following day, there was thick sticky mud on the chain and anchor, perfect.
Back to light winds and motoring yet again, we plodded on through Lama Passage after a quick provisioning stop and overnighted at Fancy Cove. It wasn’t particularly fancy, better described as cozy actually, requiring two anchors after we spotted an uncharted ledge of rock sticking out into the cove, but it did have a lot of wildlife. Again the presence of salmon seems to dictate the level of wildlife, dozens of bald eagles, ravens, seals, kingfishers, Canadian Geese and another noisy test flight for four Sandhill Cranes.
With the next few days forecast to be settled at last, we entered Fitz Hugh Sound and chose some wonderful anchorages taking advantage of the weather.
Pruth Bay on the east coast of Calvert Island is a great stopover, the privately owned island houses a research foundation called the Hakai Institute and they kindly allow visiting boaters to use their dinghy dock to access trails leading to beaches on the Pacific side. The trails are excellently maintained, we trekked to West Beach and then north to North Beach of course.
Fitz Hugh Sound was glorious, soaked in sunshine and drifting in flat calm waters we made our way down to Green Island Cove for our next anchorage.
Exploring the cove by dinghy I spotted movement in the seaweed on a small island, we couldn’t believe our eyes when an American Mink emerged from the water and sat looking at us. As we drifted in a little closer he sniffed the air and stood up on his back legs to get a better view of us. Several times he ran into the undergrowth then back out to look at us again. What an amazing find!
Our last anchorage in Fitz Hugh Sound was tucked in to Fury Cove on Penrose Island. As we arrived into the cove we could still see humpbacks feeding out in the sound, we had seen dozens of whales on the horizon blowing and breaching obviously having a great time rounding up their dinner. A few other boats gathered in the anchorage after we arrived, this is a popular point to set off from to round Cape Caution and with a settled forecast we were all taking advantage.
The next leg of our journey will take us around Cape Caution and into Queen Charlotte Strait at the north end of Vancouver Island.