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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Day 51/August 20th – Lowe Inlet to Un-named Cove up from Bishop Bay – double wolf/triple whale!

Woke up to the sound of the falls and Scott scrambling to put the long lens on the camera – a bear?! Nope, the wolves were back, this time they were on the other side of the bay working the rock weir. We watched them over coffee and breakfast and managed to get a few good photos and video. Amazing to watch them pluck the salmon out of the water with so little effort. They anticipate where the salmon is going and just open their jaws and the fish seem to fly right in.

After they left we got our shore expedition on. Walked around the weir and followed their antics – dead salmon with no face. Wolves are only interested in eating salmon brains and faces (an evolutionary adaptation to reduce the risk of parasites more common in the body of the fish). After marveling at being in the same spot the wolves had just enjoyed we headed up a trail towards the falls to get a different view of them. Enjoyed some of the biggest huckleberries we’ve seen yet. Back to Nordri and off into the next leg which we thought was going to be a bit of a slog – turned into gorgeous calm waters with fair weather clouds with patches of blue skies. Had a lovely encounter with some bubble-net feeding humpbacks. You could hear their calls as they came up with their mouths open filled with startled herring. We had a few big breaches too.

Took the autopilot remote to the bow with a thermarest and some snacks and enjoyed the end of the light. Our goal for this evening’s anchorage was to get as close as possible to tomorrow’s destination – Europa hotsprings! Found an un-named cove that would do the trick. Dropped the hook with a stern tie along with the crab trap for good measure.

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Day 50/August 19th – Baker Inlet to Lowe Inlet

Woke up with some light tapping on the pillows. Drips. Rain. The first real rain we’ve had. We really haven’t had to worry about leaks this whole trip until now – nothing a few garbage bags over the hatch couldn’t fix. The diesel stove on the other hand was not so easy to fix. It had started acting up last week and Scott spent the better part of the morning taking it apart and putting it back together to make no difference. A cooler start to the day.

Pulled the prawn trap on the way out to find about a dozen nice sized spot prawns and headed out for part 2 of Grenville Channel. Caught the tide heading out the narrows at a more comfortable rate and down the channel we were able to get a nice 3 knot push. Steamed the prawns and smothered with butter for a snack as we passed by gorgeous layers of mountains with whisps of fog and cloud pulling up and down.

We came up to the entrance to Lowe Inlet and felt the usual excitement of not knowing if you’ll be lucky enough to have an inlet all to yourselves - was relieved when we came in to find an empty bay. A nice little falls at the north end of the inlet provided a constant current for us to anchor against – no stern tie required. After admiring our surroundings and the potential for bear viewing on either side – estuary to the right, an old rock weir to the left - we settled into getting the oven repaired and making dinner. We got a little side tracked when I thought I’d spotted my first bear on the beach! But it wasn’t a bear…it was another wolf. There were two of them playing around with each other and plucking salmon out of the creek. They were just young and it looked like they were practicing. We all ate our salmon dinners and enjoyed the company until it got too dark. Tried to make it an early night as the prospects for 7:30am super low tide wild life viewing seemed promising. 

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