Monday, September 26, 2011

Sandspit back to Sidney

We left the Sandspit marina at 4:30 am. on Wednesday, August 3rd.  Well, Mark and Norm did all the work and I slept until a decent hour.  I don’t do mornings.  We had an appointment at the boatyard in Sidney on August 10th to get some last minute repairs done before we headed south for the winter which meant we had to make tracks. 

Hecate Straight was thankfully placid that day.  We motored under mostly sunny skies although it was still cool enough to keep us wearing fleece.  Every day brings its surprises and this day was no exception.  As we slowly made our way across the straight we passed very close to a fin sticking up out of the water.  Hell, we almost ran it over.  We went back to have a look, thinking it was a Basking Shark.  As we got close, however, Norm declared it to be a Mola mola!  We rushed to get cameras but only got off a couple of shots before it dove out of sight.  These are pictures Norm took; the one I took looks like a blue garbage bag drifting around under the water.


I only knew what a Mola was because the kids used to play cards with a deck that had a variety of fish pictures on the back.  For some reason the Mola was their favourite card.  I had to look it up on Wikipedia to learn a bit more about this unusual fish. 

Mola mola, commonly known as the Ocean Sunfish, is native to tropical and temperate waters around the world.  The average adult weight is 1000 kg. which means that the one we saw was quite young because it was only about 1 ½ meters long.  It looks like a fish head with a tail attached but without a body in between.  We saw it basking horizontally in the sun and the fin that we saw sticking out of the water was the pectoral fin.  Sort of like a big blue pancake.  I’d never seen one before and Norm had only seen one in an aquarium somewhere (Tokyo?) so it was a pretty big deal for us.  Mark was napping and missed the whole thing.

Later in the day we were joined by a group of Whiteside dolphins who came to play by the boat.  These creatures never fail to make me smile and it’s always a joy to have them visit.

We pulled into Weinberg Inlet at about 7:45 pm. having travelled about 90 miles that day.

The next day was uneventful.  The anchor was hoist at 5:25 am. (by others) and we motored until about 7:20 pm. that evening.  The following morning was another early start (for some).  After about an hour we came upon a pod of Orcas and I was roused from my slumber to see it.  The Orcas were coming toward us so we shut off the engines and drifted as they passed by.  They were close enough that we could hear their breathing and we watched in awe as they glided by.


We motored on to Bella Bella which we decided has the best grocery store in the world.  The selection of sushi fixings and Japanese rice cookies is unparalleled.  Wasabi, sushi ginger, rolling mats, nori sheets, soups, dipping sauces, you name it, and they had it.  We thought there must be quite a large Japanese community in the town but there is not.  Decades ago Japanese fishermen and their families lived and fished up and down the coast and introduced their foods to the area.  The flavours became popular with the local Indians and Japanese food still commands a respectable amount of shelf space in the band-owned store.

Light House at Bella Bella

After fuelling and provisioning at Bella Bella we motored most of the afternoon and were then able to put up the sails for the first time in many days.  We sailed into our resting place for the night, a little bay called Joe’s Bay in Fish Egg Inlet.  We tried our hand at fishing from the dingy but after pulling up successively smaller and smaller rockfish, decided to quit molesting the poor things. 

The next day, August 6th, we motored out of Fish Egg Inlet in the morning and sometime around noon had enough wind to put up the sails again.  We sailed across Queen Charlotte Sound wing on wing in the sun with the wind behind us and the fishing lines out.  As we rounded Cape Caution we heard the distinctive zeeeeeeee from the fishing rod and Norm had a fish on.  I quickly reeled in the other rod so it wouldn’t get tangled with the fish while Norm brought the fish in.  This proved to be more of a challenge than usual.  All our other fishing had been done while motoring and when a fish was on we just stopped until it was landed.  Sailing along at 5 to 6 knots with a sizable fish on was akin to dragging an anchor.  Once the fish was close to the boat I got the net ready but as soon as I dipped it in the water it turned inside out and was almost ripped from my hands.  I put on my life jacket and had Mark hold the back of my life jacket and the back of the net so I didn’t fly off the back end.  As a team we landed the fish without anyone taking a swim.  Here’s Norm with his prize, a 12 lb. Coho.

We put the lines out again and quickly caught two rockfish, one of which I made into a fish ‘n chips dinner.  It was pretty tasty if I do say so myself.

Taking the boat to Mexico meant that we didn’t know when or if we would ever sail the Pacific Northwest again so we wanted to take a look at the Broughtons while we had the chance. 

 The Broughtons are a cruising destination and many boats go there to enjoy the fabulous scenery, many islands and islets, and the relative solitude.  We only spent two nights there but we could see how you could spend weeks exploring the area. 

Sullivan Bay is the main provisioning and fuel stop in the Broughtons.  It consists of float houses on docks in an L shape with the marina out front.  We went in to have a look and get a bit of fuel and food.  The general store had fresh warm apple turnovers that we just couldn’t pass up.

Fisherman's mailbox

Sullivan Bay Safeway

Sullivan Bay Airport

Sullivan Bay

Tuesday, August 9th was our day to run rapids.  Several channels through the islands are narrow enough that while the tide is changing, the currents are strong enough to make it dangerous if not foolhardy to pass through.  Everyone consults their tide tables and congregates at each end of the channel ready to make the passage at slack tide.

We passed through Green Point Rapids at 6:30 am.  I may or may not have been sleeping for that.  Our next passage wasn’t until 2 pm that afternoon so we had some time to kill while we waited.  We used some of it up by making a lunch stop then carried on to the top of the channel.  There we found 15-20 charter fishing boats trolling up and down the shore.  There are few things that Norm likes more than fishing so we joined the procession and he caught two nice coho.
When the time was right we motored through Dent Rapids, Devil’s Hole and Yuculta Rapids without incident while sailboats, commercial fishing boats and even a mega yacht made the passage from the other direction.   At the last minute Mark decided that he wanted to make one more passage so we went through Hole-In-the-Wall while conditions were still favourable to make it a 5-rapid day. 

We came out of Hole-In-the-Wall at Octopus Islands, a special place in Desolation Sound, where we anchored for the night.  We carefully selected a spot and set the crab trap out overnight expecting a crab lunch the next day but things don’t always go the way you would like.  Our entire catch consisted of three decorator crabs and two orange starfish none of which we ate.

Catch of the day

A decorated decorator crab

Decorator crabs have the unusual habit of "decorating" their carapace with bits of algae and invertebrates for the purpose of camouflage. They accomplish this by attaching these materials to specialized hooked setae on their carapace that hold decorations in place much in the same way that Velcro latches onto fabric.

The next day we motored into Campbell River where Norm made his escape.  Mark and I carried on and anchored Shark Spit at Uganda Passage on Marina Island for the night.

Shell beach on Shark Spit

Sunset at Shark Spit
 In the morning there was an oyster harvester on the beach at low tide.  I figured if he was harvesting oysters I would get some for us.  It turned out that the area at Shark Spit was closed to harvest but he assured us that Savory Island was open and that we could get oysters there.  So we went there and anchored on a huge beach where we were only in 30 ft. of water although we were a long way from shore. 

We set the crab trap out overnight and in the morning at low tide went to shore and gathered a bunch of oysters.  The plan was to pick up the crab trap on the way back to the boat.  When Mark pulled the starter to fire up the dingy engine it promptly came off in his hand which I found highly amusing.  We paddled back to the crab trap (which netted us five keepers) and then back to the boat.  Mark drove and I got out the oyster knife and began to shell the oysters.  By the time I got two done I was ready to toss the rest overboard.  They do not want to come out of those shells!  However, once I added another oyster knife and a hammer into the mix I made great progress.  We made our way to Rouse Cove at the east end of Lasqueti Island where we stayed for two days because of bad weather.

Our last night out before returning to “civilization” in Sidney was spent at North Cove on Thetis Island.

Sunset at North Cove on Thetis Island

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