Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Day 59/August 28th - Shearwater

Had breakfast at the restaurant this morning, picked up our fish and loaded Alistair onto the seabus heading over to Bella Bella so that he could catch his morning flight.

I then did laundry, caught up on the blog over another coffee and pie at the restaurant, and did a few errands (boat stuff from the marine store).  Also did a bunch of route planning.  Kim flies in tomorrow morning to Bella Bella, but I think we’ll get her onto a floatplane and flown into Ocean Falls tomorrow afternoon.  I will take the boat by myself back to Ocean Falls to pick her up, then head with her up to Eucott Hot Springs!  It’s a bit of a crazy route, but I think we can fit it in, and it would be nice to check out the springs, as well as Alexander Mckenzie’s rock (which is enroute).  Stay tuned!

Day 58/August 27th – Ocean Falls to Shearwater

Motored off the dock at 6:20am to catch slack tide for one more spat of fishing.  With Alistair flying back to Vancouver tomorrow, our goal (as was with Mark) once again was to send him back with as many fish as we could legally, with the intention of stocking the freezer for the winter.  Will be sooo nice to pull out a salmon in a few months, and have friends over to help eat it while I think back about this trip!

Fishing started off great for Alistair - a couple of 8-9 pound coho.  I, on the other hand, was busy with “the technicalities”… cleaning the diesel stove once again, and trying to figure out why my fishing rod’s reel was jammed stuck!  Diesel stove cleaning went well – I concluded that it must not have liked the low-sulphur diesel that we picked up in Rupert last week.  Fishing rod was another story, I wedged some washers under one side of it’s face-plate thinking that I bent the spool somehow and managed to catch a nice big 10-11 coho on a half-working setup as soon as I dropped my lure in the water.  I then abandoned the reel completely and spooled line off one of Nordri’s main winches.  It wasn’t 3 minutes after I put the lure in the water that I was hauling another nice sized coho in by hand!!

It can be done.  And after 24 years of sailing, I feel like I have graduated and finally become a true sailor.  Ten pound coho caught by hand.  Any only sliced my finger once a tiny bit with the line!

All-in-all, a very successful day of fishing.  Took 57.5lbs of salmon to Shearwater and left them with the guys at the resort there to be gutted, filleted, vacuum-packed, flash-frozen and boxed ready for Alistair to take with him to Vancouver tomorrow.  A service costing $15 per fish, but worth every penny!

Day 57/August 26th – Ocean Falls

Amazing place to check out.

Woke up, had breaky at the Darke Waters Inn, and took account of where we were… Ocean Falls used to be a bustling mill-town with a population of 5,000 residents.  Now, full-time inhabitants number 25 people.  Somewhat of a collapse you might say…. 

In 1906, when the mill was getting established, they built a dam and hydro-electric plant to supply the pulp-mill with all it’s full power demand.  Thirteen MegaWatts in total.  After the mill shut-down completely in 1980, the power generation facility eventually became the main source of power for the towns of Bella Bella and Shearwater.  Now, in the winter-time, demand sits at about 3 MegaWatts… roughly 25% of the hydro-electric plant’s capacity!

Several huge empty buildings remain standing (for now), and other smaller ones are now used by residents.  Alistair works for Boralex, the current owners of the hydro-electric plant, so we got a full tour of the facility and the town by some of his colleagues.  Those tours, combined with our own wandering around in amazement led to a fascinating day of exploration!


Workshop where the old paper-mill was.  Currently houses shop space which is used by about five people.


Nearly Normal Norman showed us the boat shed, with a complete marine ways tha is now a place to stow toys and work on the odd project.


Norman also showed us the “museum”.  A huge collection of stuff that he had found over the years while rooting through the rubble of buildings that used to make up the town.

We explored some of the bigger old buildings.  Here’s a mix of what we found.


Elevator was down for repairs, so we took the stairs up. ;)

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Here’s an exclusive view from on top of the dam. Work was being done on the large concrete wall in the bottom-left, just building it up and renewing the exterior cement.


Inside the power-plant. Only two of the smaller turbines were running at the time.IMG_4088 IMG_4090 IMG_4093 IMG_4095

Coolest looking breakers I’ve ever seen.


Another old building where the old water-driven machinery was housed.

Day 56/August 25th – Bella Bella to Ocean Falls

We stayed last night on the hook in the bay opposite of Shearwater.  Nice consistent 60ft depth with good holding – the docks we very busy with weekend traffic, plus a pile of seiners arriving for what would turn out to be a 13hr salmon opening on Monday. 

This morning we filled up all our tanks.  I’ve come to quite enjoy the feeling of having completely full diesel and fresh water tanks.  Nordri has 80 gallons diesel capacity and 88 gallons of fresh water.  That’s been lots to allow us to go from say Rupert to here very comfortably, while taking our time to go do big detours and poke the bow into some interesting spots along the way.  After fueling up, over to the Bella Bella public dock where we found temporary moorage alongside a couple of crab boats that were tied up waiting for weather (it’s been a bit ugly offshore lately).  We found my friend Alistair on the dock waiting for us, and after a quick run up to the grocery store (in the church remember), Kim got packed up and headed for the airport.  She’s got a set of meetings in Smithers, so Alistair will have to do as a sailing companion for the next couple of days. 

Took Nordri out Gunboat Passage then hit up a couple of fishing spots that Alistair’s ‘local connection’ had circled on the map.  Turned out to be pretty good intel, because within two hours we were continuing into Ocean Falls with 5 nice looking coho!  Humpback whales as well enroute… Alistair got what’s become a normal occurence… whatching whales from a few hundred meters when all of a sudden one surfaces right beside the boat!  I guess that they are probably just as curious as we are!

Tied up at the end of the dock in Ocean Falls just as the sun headed down.  Tomorrow should be very interesting!


Is this a hint that it’s time for me to start thinking about heading back to work soon?IMG_4011

Alistair cleaning fish. All coho.IMG_4012

Looking SW down Burke Channel on a nice evening.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Day 55/August 24th – James Bay to Bella Bella

With a long day to Bella Bella ahead of us, we almost cancelled the shore party to hit the road this morning. Thankfully we didn’t as we had a good explore up the river of James Bay with a lot of bear evidence all around. Day beds, dug up roots, scat and another Kitasoo Xai’xais bear research hair snare. Eagles, salmon, ravens. No bears, but we soaked up the feeling of being in their place.

Pulled anchor and a couple of huge crabs and made our way south. Fairly uneventful until the wind picked up. We were excited at first – it seemed like a decent wind to sail. But it quickly built into unpredictable gusts from all directions. Managed to get the main up and reefed, but then it was getting too hard to follow and we were getting close to the narrows. Then we heard a relayed mayday from Prince Rupert coast guard for someone just outside where we were. Turned out to be a false call on DSC radio. Environment Canada issued an updated weather report shortly afterwards. Gale warnings all the way up the coast. We got Nordri all prepared for 2m swells, but thankfully came around the corner to find some mildly confused chop.

Coming into Bella Bella we passed by the Seaspan Commodore tug – the very one Scott had designed a emergency boat davit/crane for just last year!

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Day 54/August 23rd – Khutze to Mussel Inlet to James Bay

No bears. Hopped in Sturdi for a little expedition though. Stunning estuary littered with spawning salmon, seals, eagles and evidence of bears. Took the dingy up the river and drifted out passed the falls.

Crazy fog today – worse than we’ve had it. It was slow going trying to keep sight of the shore while triangulating with the radar and GPS.  At one point we had some waves come up off the bow and an RCMP boat emerged out of the thick of it. We almost aborted our mission to get to Mussel Inlet, but we made the right decision as the route took us out of the fog. We had a nice drive up to Mussel, but as soon as we got in it started raining like I’ve never seen it rain. The rain came down and cliffs came up all around us as we entered the inlet. The Coastal Guardian Watchmen checked in on us via the radio but didn’t have much to offer in terms of information on where/if to anchor. We drifted in front of the waterfalls and ate curry.

Decided to cut down our travel time into Bella Bella tomorrow by heading down a little further to James Bay. Came out of the rain and pulled into the lovely cove with no one around to hit. Dropped anchor and the crab trap and rested well knowing we had a good hold on the anchor with all the swing room you could want.

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Day 53/ August 22nd – Bishop Bay to Khutze Inlet

We couldn’t resist the morning soak. So we packed our coffees in and had one more. So good.

Whispy fog heading out of Bishop Bay and down Ursula Channel made for waves of good visibility. Dropped by Butedale for a quick boo and headed on to Khutze Inlet. Stopped briefly for some whales in the fog. We’re getting into the challenging anchorages now. We could have put down at Green Spit at the mouth of the inlet, but we wanted to have the chance of waking up to a view of grizzlies in the estuary and so we attempted it. Fail. When we weren’t dodging sand bars and shallow water, we had 100 ft under the keel. Ended up heading over to the water fall on the east side of the bay and Scott was up all night resetting/monitoring the dragging bow anchor. Kim tends to sleep through these things. 

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Day 52/August 21st – Un-named Cove to Europa Hotsprings to Bishop Bay – Double hotsprings!

Most interesting crab trap haul to date - massive periwinkle snail things and an octopus! I was in the head when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye – an octopus tentacle suctioning its way in through the window. Those things can move! It hauled down the side of the boat before Scott could get it back in the water. Pulled anchor and headed for the hotsprings.

Was a bit of a trek out of the way, but well worth it. Tied onto a mooring bu0y and rowed to the steaming hut that house two pools and a shelter for changing. The water was gorgeous and we sat and watched the rain come down and the tide come up. The spearmint green glacier fed water that crept up was too tempting to resist and I managed to dunk twice. Our own little heaven for a few hours. All clean and relaxed we headed back to the boat and off for Bishop Bay to test out the hotsprings there.

Came around and into the bay to find two boats and one empty buoy. Tied up just before dark and headed for the pools. It was apparent that this hotsprings sees a little more traffic and was a little more developed. Dozens of signed flashers, buoys, bumpers, fenders hung from the ceiling and the cement pools and hut were covered with blissed out sentiments and initials. They were a little less slimy too. Had a short but sweet soak and then headed back for the best night’s sleep ever. Crazy phosphorescence off the oars and we rowed back to the boat. 

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