Saturday, May 11, 2013

Northern BC in Sunshine

I’m writing this entry Saturday May 11, just after arriving in Ketchikan, our first full day in Alaska. As is typical up here, within fifteen minutes of exiting our anchorage in Foggy Bay (where we had a view of whales spouting) we were being escorted by two humpback whales swimming parallel to us thirty yards away, while a pair of Dahl’s porpoises danced off our bow. Welcome to Alaska! Oh, and did I mention that today is the first rainy day we’ve had the entire trip?

The last six days we’ve felt engulfed in wilds of northern British Columbia. Except for a few brief moments, no phone service or internet. And practically no boats. Northern BC feels like one of the more remote places on the planet, and this particular week, the sunniest! Day upon day without a cloud in the sky, spending hours sitting on the bow with barely a whisper of wind. The trip up the Inside Passage to Alaska entails two “ocean” crossings—Queen Charlotte Sound and Dixon Entrance—each potentially exposed to whatever vagaries mid-ocean storms might throw our way. The Sound was a tad lumpy with 4ft seas, but barely any salt spray reached our decks. And Dixon Entrance was barely rippled. We’ve been so lucky, I don’t mind this little rainy front one bit.

Leaving Port McNeill at 5:30am, we were across QC Sound by 4pm, in time to kayak around in Fury Cove (white sandy beaches and a view of the Sound.)

Leaving Port McNeill at 5am

Fury Cove - White Shell Beach

Thousands of Years of Shells

Still Waters Create Lovely Reflections

 Our first day after crossing Queen Charlotte Sound, we steamed up Fitzhugh Channel and through narrow Gunboat Passage, past Bella Bella where we had five minutes of phone connection, and then up Seaforth Channel to tiny Oliver Cover. We had been on the "road" for almost a week now and the two of us have been settling into our routines - mostly having to do with coffee and oatmeal in the morning, a veggie sandwich at noon, chocolate in the afternoon and something featuring mostly veggies and beans for dinner. Routine (punctuated by the occasional challenge) is part of what I love about cruising. Life seems well bounded, without anything extraneous. I find myself completely caught up in the present.

Resupplying Lighthouse at Boat Bluff near Klemtu

From Oliver Cove we made a long day of it going up Mathieson Channel a bit before cutting through Jackson Narrows to Finlayson Channel. (If you're an armchair sailer, check out tiny If you page back through the maps you can follow our exact route.) We'll spend a bit more time in Northern BC on the way home, and wanted to get a couple of days ahead of our schedule. So we beelined all the way to Khutze Inlet, a trip we normally do in two days. But I made a mistake. To save time, we didn't anchor deep in the inlet. Instead, I anchored on the spit near the main channel (Graham Reach.) By midnight the problem reared its head. Big spring tides plus large runoffs from the river created a strong current. We were constantly swinging back and forth on the anchor and, unfortunately, we were over gravel. If you haven't heard the sound of an anchor chain attached to a steel boat grinding over gravel and rocks on the bottom, well--you're lucky. Unable to sleep, I got up at 3:30 and got us on our way. Pitch dark, under radar, the air still and fresh...and then the slightest hint of a proto-dawn, and the mountain tops on both sides of us beginning to be etched by the light. Yes - a mistake - but one that resulted in witnessing dawn in one of the most beautiful settings possible.

Jackson Narrows 

With our early start, we were in one of our favorite places in the entire world - Bishop Bay Hot Springs - by a little after noon. We moored up and waited for a fishing boat to leave, and then had the whole place to ourselves until that evening, when several other small boats arrived.  Sunshine. The clear, odorless (Glenda would say magical) waters of the spring, and the opportunity to explore by kayak.

Fishing Boat at the Hot Springs Dock. Covered Springs to the Left.

Waterfall behind us.

Safely Moored on Buoy - no Scraping Rock Tonight.

Thursday was our day of waterfalls. We charged up Grenville Channel at almost nine knots for most of the day (until the tide changed and we slowed to 5 knots.) I'll only show you a couple of waterfall shots, but if you had the time, I could show you fifty.

Our last night in Kanada was at Kumealon Lagoon. (Just kidding - Canada.) We spotted our second bear of the trip (we've seen three so far.)

Kumealon Lagoon Anchorage - North End of Grenville Channel

Our plan was to spend the next night in Prince Rupert before crossing Dixon Entrance, but the weather reports changed all that. Calm today, storm tomorrow. Easy decision. We pushed on, crossing Dixon into Canada and arriving at Foggy Bay. (We called Customs and got permission to anchor in the US a day prior to actually clearing in Ketchikan. A nice service, since the trip is difficult to make all in one day.)

Crossing Dixon - Our Horns Announcing Arrival

Ten minutes after anchoring in Foggy Bay, I looked out over Dixon Entrance. The first thing I saw was this...

Humpback Spouts from our Anchorage

Welcome to Alaska!!!

This morning we woke to the predicted storm - wind and rain - and made our way, cozy in the pilothouse, up to Ketchikan.

Ketchikan without the Cruise Ships!

We'll stay here a few days and then continue on up to Petersburg where our first friends will meet us.

Until then...

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