S: The Island Wanderers' 2010
BC: We were grateful for knowledge and friendship imparted to us by Marven Robinson (incl. Cody and Richard) - Gitga'at First Nation, Wayne McCrory - Professional Biologist, Ian McAllister -PacificWild.org. | © Melody Watson 2005
1: Featured are the trials and tribulations of the Island Wanderer and it's crew, Stephen and Melody Watson, Kevin and Marlene Greer and not forgetting the VIP passengers, Cosmo and Abi, our pampered cats. Enjoy our adventures as told by Marlene as we explore all the nooks and crannies of the B.C. central coast. | The "Island Wanderer"
2: We are on our way. Our big adventure has begun. The weather is fine. The boat is packed with provisions for a month. Two cats are settling in to life on the ocean and we are excitedly looking forward to our trip along the inside passage of B.C.. It's midday, much later than Steve’s original departure plan, but what the heck, we don't have a schedule to keep. We have just had our safety briefing and are now instructed to watch out for whales. No whales, but plenty of salmon leaping out of the sea. We are also on the lookout for rogue logs and deadheads. These can do serious damage to the boat and must be avoided. Shortly we pass a large tug with a massive load of floating logs behind, lying idle waiting for the tide to turn and make the run down to Menzies Bay, just round the corner from Melody and Steve’s house. Near Robson Bight we spy our first whales. Two or three pods of orcas. This is Kevin's first real target for his video camera and he gives it his best shot. More practice will definitely be required. Steve pointed out rain ahead and it wasn't long before the wipers were needed. What to do with no view was easily solved with a glass of red and a packet of chips. Those who had decided to nap missed out. Our first night at sea we are moored in a lovely little cove. The captain got a bit wet securing the mooring, but I believe that is his job. He cooks too! and after a dinner of chicken salad we settle down to watch videos, but it's not long before we feel ready for bed. | 21st August, 2010
3: After breakfast, we rug up for a whale watching trip in the zodiac. We are all on board and Steve is locking the door when Kevin has second thoughts about going. He is doing his best to recover from a dose of flu and decides it might be too cold. Good decision. It is cold, but only when the boat is moving and who cares about that when you get to see plenty of orcas. My attempts with Kevin's camera were hopeless, but Melody got some great shots. While we are watching the whales, we are approached by a zodiac with two whale conservation people aboard. They teach people to be whale wise and how not to harass these gentle giants. One of the two girls is a New Zealander, who has been living in this area for many years. We return to the boat for a hot drink before Steve and Melody take off to catch dinner. Toasted sandwiches for dinner says it all!! A mink has run across the rocks. Hard to imagine they make mink coats from these little weasels. On the other side of the boat a great blue heron is watching for his fish dinner. The ocean looks beautiful, a smooth silvery colour, no ripples, looking like liquid mercury. | 22nd August, 2010
4: 23rd August, 2010 | Steve has cast off by the time we crawl out of bed. So we get to eat our breakfast cruising along to Port McNeill where we are to top up fuel and water. I get to toss the bow line to an old man on the dock. Thank goodness I didn’t hit him with it! Kevin and I walked up to the local supermarket for a few supplies and then we set off for the trip across the open sea. We were a little apprehensive as this crossing takes several hours and can be extremely rough. Despite a gale warning the crossing was uneventful. Half way across we saw our first humpback whale and as we sailed into calmer waters we spotted another five whales. | Steve found a lovely spot to moor the boat and the rain held off until the boat was secure and the crab pots set. This was Fly Basin and Steve and Melody had moored here before. No wonder they wanted to come back. The crab pots overflowed with 34 crabs, 17 for the pot and 17 with a second chance. It was while we were enjoying our dinner on the back deck that we noticed the amazing reflections in the still dark water. I hope our photos do them justice. Below the water line, we can see dozens of beautiful starfish, the size of dinner plates and a lovely, deep magenta colour.
6: 24th August, 2010 | The cloud is low and despite occasional rain we all set off in the zodiac to catch more bait for the crab pots and photograph the humpbacks which according to my brother were around this area in droves last year. No humpbacks and for sometime no fish. Several promising fishing spots were tried without results until finally Melody, using her intuition (or echo sounder) suggested a spot near some very large rocks. Success at last. What a buzz! Everyone had a go. You just had to bounce the rod and the fish hopped on. Between us we landed seventeen fish, including the catch of the day – me with two fish on the one hook!
7: 25th August, 2010 | Kevin managed to wake the entire boat when he tripped over the toilet and fell into the shower early this morning. Steve heard the noise and thought that the boat had bottomed out. Our departure today was delayed a little. Steve had a little problem to solve. The two mooring lines to the shore that had been tied at high tide were now out of reach, high up two trees. His successful efforts provided entertainment for the rest of the crew. We were hoping to see more whales on the way to our next stopover, but it was not to be. The time was not wasted though. Steve had added another 13 crabs to yesterdays catch and although several had been eaten there was still a large stack to shell. | We anchor at Joe’s Bay, which once inside appears to be completely surrounded by rain forest. The crabs are finished and Kevin and I enjoy crab and lettuce sandwiches for lunch. After lunch we take off in the zodiac through narrow and fierce reversing tidal rapids to Lake Elizabeth. While the lagoon is vast and attractive, apart from a few feeding seals there is no other wild life visible and we cannot afford let the tide make the rapids impassable, so we return to the Island Wanderer. Á few hours later, mountains of foam, like thick soapsuds spreading across the bay demonstrates the power of the tide through the rapids we traversed earlier. Dinner was delicious, fresh crab patties and salad.
8: 26th August, 2010 | This morning we weigh anchor and continue up Fitz Hugh Sound to Kwakume Inlet. A cruise ship is coming up behind us but we turn into our anchorage before it catches up. There is quite a bit of traffic in the sound and Steve tells us that most of them are returning after the Canadian summer vacation. Kwakume is another cosy, picturesque anchorage and several seals sharing one little rock watch as Steve ties the mooring lines. From here we can use the zodiac to explore the Koeye River (Kwai). A short distance up Fitz Hugh Sound, it is a great place to view animal and bird life and this is grizzly bear country. A native lodge is near the point at the mouth of the river. The area is used by the Bella Bella First Nations to teach the young ones the old ways. Although it is called a river, we would consider it a stream, and it limits how far upstream we can get in the large zodiac. Steve has a way to get further upstream but we will have to wait until tomorrow. For the first time we get to see salmon, swimming under our boat and a dead tree on the edge of the stream has four bald eagles perched on the dead branches.
9: Koeye River
10: 27th August, 2010 | Today we return to the Koeye River in the large zodiac with two small zodiacs. One tied to each side. Melody encourages us to wear waders, large green body bags with gumboots attached and shoulder straps to hold them on. Later when we are standing in thigh deep water, warm and dry, we appreciate her advice. On the way up this small river we stop to explore an old abandoned mine site we had seen from the boat the previous day. One reference said that lime had been mined there, but it was so overgrown with forest that it could have been many decades ago. It was fun though. After finding our way along a narrow trail we came to a large open pit connected to a second pit by a long tunnel cut through a hill and large enough to wade through. For KJ, a one cylinder engine to drool over. Once Steve had navigated as far as we had been yesterday, we transferred to the little zodiacs and putt putted upstream under the watchful eye of countless bald eagles, all waiting for the salmon to arrive. A few early arrivals were leaping about but Steve assured us that when the run starts there will be thousands. It was so peaceful. Then we all spotted a large animal swimming across in front of us. Was it a bear? Melody and Steve raced over to the bank where it had disappeared into the undergrowth while KJ and I continued putt putting in the middle of the stream, just in case it was a bear. Steve is positive that what he saw was a cougar and Melody agrees but is peeved that it didn't wait around for a photo shoot. Finally we can go no further, the rapids ahead are impassable. Steve finds a quiet little eddy to stop for a drink and a snack before we turn back. With Kevin in the other little zodiac, I try to follow him in but totally stuff it up and it was KJ who saved us from the swift current dumping us on rocks. Finally, as we stand in thigh deep water, warm and dry we understand why Melody had us dressed up as Michelin men. We leave the river about 3.30pm and return along the coast of Fitzhugh Sound to Kwakume and the Island Wanderer. Only two whales were spotted and were too far away to photograph. The late afternoon is beautiful and sunny (sunset isn’t until 9.00pm) and we enjoy a G & T while Steve packs away the gear.
12: 28th August, 2010 | I ‘m just out of bed when Steve calls “come and see”. He has already lifted the crab pots and I go out the back to find Steve with his pots overflowing. How many I ask? With a grin he says, “ninety seven and two starfish”. The limit for us is sixteen. Steve throws 85 crabs back! We still have crab patties left over in the fridge, so we enjoy them for breakfast. After Steve cooks the fresh crabs we up anchor and set off further up the sound. We are in a pea soup fog. First time I’ve seen the radar working. Melody assures us it will lift by 1100hrs and sure enough it dissipates in time for Steve to catch sight of a whale breaching off to our right in Kiwash Cove. We follow it in, carefully, as the cove is quite shallow and then out again. As the whale heads along the shoreline we follow hoping for some good photos. Kevin has been distracted by a BC Ferry on its way to Prince Rupert. These ferries are large sea going vessels and make the trip twice weekly. Meanwhile Melody reminds Steve that Codville Lagoon is nearby and worth a visit. | In a cruising guide, we read that the entrance to Codville Lagoon is difficult to find, narrow and tricky and according to the charts only for small to medium boats. Even though we are in a large boat, Steve is not deterred and once the entrance is located, Kevin and I stand out on the foredeck in brilliant sunshine as Steve negotiates the entrance. Codville Lagoon is well protected and pretty with a large island in the centre. There is a trail at the end of the lagoon leading to a hidden lake. Kevin opts out but the rest of us set off with cameras, snacks and bear spray. The trail was a total adventure. Quite difficult but absolutely worth it. One section so steep, a rope had been left dangling down, so that we could haul ourselves up. After thirty minutes we walked out of the forest onto a long sweeping sandy beach. An amazing sight. The water was warm enough for swimming and Melody was almost tempted. Fortunately her camera was able to capture just how beautiful the shoreline of Sagar Lake is. There were a lot of prints in the damp sand along the lake edge. The standout ones were grizzly bear. No sign of him but the prints were fresh. Other prints probably belonged to a wolf. Melody found the cutest little frog who reluctantly posed for us. A brace of grouse provided another photo opportunity on the return trail. Back at the lagoon the tide has come in and the shore line is underwater. Steve bush whacks his way through to the zodiac and with Kevin’s assistance manages to get the zodiac and return for Melody and I. Left alone for a couple of hours, Kevin had finished shelling the morning catch and downed a few beers as well. No crab for dinner – Kevin hankers for a T-Bone and Steve does the next best thing. New Yorkers with salad. Yummy. The tide has dropped too low to get through the lagoons narrow entrance. We have to stay overnight. No problem, we are not in hurry.
14: We set off after breakfast to cross Fitz Hugh Sound to Shearwater. This will be our first internet connection and Melody and Kevin are getting anxious to be in touch with family. We also get to refuel, take on water, shower and do our laundry. The wake from Steve’s boat is high enough to upset the locals (they don't seem too happy when their boats start rocking wildly) so it's dead slow as we crawl into the marina. Or, should I say a whales pace. It was a procession. Melody was out front driving the large zodiac, right behind a hump back whale heading for the marina, with the Island Wanderer bringing up the rear. We were gobsmacked as we watched the whale swim right on into the marina. Our concerns that the whale would be gone by the time we refueled and moored were wasted. He spent the rest of the day rounding up fish, before erupting out of the water, his mouth wide open, so overfilled with fish they were spilling out. I can't find words to explain the sheer adrenalin rush as this huge mammal heaved his enormous body clear of the water, then crashed back down. We were watching and waiting all the time and we are not disappointed. The water is flat and smooth, and we excitedly watch for the ring of bubbles, that will indicate the whale has his next meal ready in its bubble net, before it erupts out through the bubbles, mouth full of fish. Again and again he breaches and, for the rest of the day hangs around the marina feeding. Such a spectacular display and we didn't have to go to a marine park to see it. At the marina, everyone with a camera is ready and waiting to get the shot of a lifetime. We had noticed the whale swimming in a nearby cove so Melody, Steve and I walk there hoping for an advantage. The whale doesn't come close enough, but Steve captures three little otters on a log with his camera. Several great blue herons also challenge for photo rights. Shearwater has a pub and restaurant where we decide to have dinner. We are seated by the window which is only three metres from the marina, eating our dinner, when out of the blue our whale breaches right outside the window. Everyone in the room is yelling, did you see it, did you see it! I ignore Steve’s advice not to order fish and order salmon. Huge disappointment.
16: The whale is still there with a captive audience who again have cameras at the ready. But he moves away after breakfast and although we keep a lookout all day we don't see him again. It's interesting spending time in a marina. There are so many different boats coming and going, new people to meet and experiences to share. One little wooden sailing boat we suspect is homemade, only about five mt long and looking at least sixty years old ties up. Steve, the wharfinger, said he wouldn't take it across to the fuel dock it was so rickety. The only person on board appeared as old as her boat and told us she was sailing from Prince Rupert to her new home in Union Bay, around six hundred nautical miles away. We couldn't believe it. The boat was so tiny it only accommodated one person. Further out, another ship dropped anchor, far too big, (Steve estimated its length around fifty mt) to moor at the dock, it had its own helicopter on the aft deck. A high speed zodiac raced in with 3 paramedics on board. They ran up to the restaurant, returning a short time later carrying a man on a stretcher, doing chest compressions as they loaded him into the boat and roared off. Sadly we were told that he didn't make it. He had been here for a fishing competition. He was only 49. Melody stayed on board while the rest of us went for a walk. The few roads are not paved and signs everywhere warn to watch out for bears. Didn't see any bears, but wild blackberries beside the road were ripe and ready to eat – so we did. For the second time we had dinner at the pub. Melody and Steve said they only eat there to give the cook on board a break. Steve reminded me again not to expect too much from the seafood offerings even though the waters around Shearwater are teeming with fish. I ignore the advice and order fish and chips. Absolutely dreadful and for the second time I have to eat humble pie. Steve was right again. | 30th August, 2010
17: 31st August, 2010 | We are all up except Melody, when without warning Mr Whale breaches right beside our boat, rocking it wildly. Melody, always looking for the perfect shot, leapt out of bed and still in her pyjamas, rushed outside to capture more stunning photos. Rain has set in as we depart Shearwater heading to Culpepper Lagoon. As we cruise up Mathieson Channel the rain clears enough to view the mountains on either side. This area is called Fiordland and we can identify this landscape with own NZ version. Like NZ, this rainforest territory has numerous huge waterfalls cascading down the steep slopes, just awesome. Shortly after turning into Kynoch Inlet we come upon a stunning waterfall. Steve brings the boat in close for photos, and I can see how small boats could easily be swamped if they got too close. Our destination for the day is Culpepper Lagoon found at the top of Kynoch Inlet, through a narrow, shallow passage that is impassable at low tide. Our capable skipper deftly guides the boat through the entrance narrows into a beautiful lagoon with magnificent views in all directions. The lagoon is over two miles long and we cruise all the way, to moor in a gorgeous little cove at the far end. Kevin stays on board while the rest of us take off in the large zodiac to explore and check for salmon and bears and anything else. Eventually, after meandering up a small stream, we find a few salmon and the decision is made to return the next day with Kevin. As we return to the Island Wanderer we pass lots of seals, looking so cute with their little heads poking out of the water checking us out.
18: 1st September, 2010 | This morning the lagoon is as smooth as glass with small patches of fog drifting about. It's so beautiful I have to take a picture. No surprise that this area of the world has become a mecca for photographers. Around 10.30am we return in the zodiac to find the salmon we saw yesterday. The tide is a lot lower and as we move slowly along we can see countless crabs scurrying along the bottom. Some of them are big, I mean very, very big and Steve is thinking “crab pots”. But we still have fresh crab on board and there is no need to be greedy. Because of the low tide the zodiac has to be moored at the mouth of the creek and Melody and Steve set off immediately. Steve to catch salmon and Melody a grizzly. While Kevin sits in the zodiac and watches, I manage to catch and release a large salmon, so heavy I can't lift the net. As Kevin and I potter around near the boat we see a few very large and very dead salmon. Steve’s rod, the one we all had to take care of, is broken when Steve and his first catch of the day wrestle it out on the bank. Adding insult to injury the fish escapes and swims off. Not put off, he catches another 5 with the broken rod, 4 are released and one is kept for dinner. No bears for Melody, but hawkeye, Steve, spots a porcupine instead. She shows no fear of us as she clings to a tree only a couple of metres away. This is no surprise when we hear how much damage her defensive quills can inflict. She is in no hurry to leave and after lots of snaps we move off upstream searching for grizzlies. Plenty of bear scat (poo) along the bank is evidence of their presence earlier, but to Melody and Steves’ disappointment and my relief, none are found. Before we leave, Steve takes off for a final bear check and nearly trips over the porcupine in the long grass. He beats a hasty retreat, they can shoot their quills several metres and he had no wish to be the target. It is late afternoon when we leave and head down Kynoch Inlet to photograph another waterfall. On the way we spot at least 6 kayaks and several people pulled up on a small shingle fan. It's quite weird – you feel like you are in the most remote place on earth and out of the blue, kayaks. Steve said that they were probably from a large charter boat moored out of our sight.
19: 2nd September, 2010 | Steve has the anchor up and stern lines free when we get up. Because of the narrow entrance to the lagoon we can only leave early or late on the high tide. Steve doesn't like hanging around, it's pouring with rain and with nothing else to do it's no surprise we are moving on. We moor in Davids Bay, off Mussel Inlet, a guaranteed bear habitat. The rain continued all day, and there would have been nothing to blog about if a joiner on a hose in the stern stateroom hadn't burst and pumped all our water onto the carpet. Disaster. The only water left on board was a small amount of bottled drinking water. All the water for washing, showering and toilets was gone. After several attempts to plug the end of the hose Steve finally managed to seal it with a pair of pointy nose pliers. The lack of water is fixed by Steve with a couple of tarps and numerous containers out on deck. It's amazing how much rainwater can be collected when you are desperate. So all was well again, except for a ban on showers and limiting how often the toilets were flushed. But that's life. We will now get to see Klemtu, a band settlement, and the nearest dock where we can fill up with water and fuel. It will be a couple of days before we can get to Klemtu and in the meantime, Steve offers the use of the outside shower on the boarding platform as it uses cold sea water. There are no takers. | 3rd September, 2010 | It's still raining, actually pouring cats and dogs. Steve is pleased with all the water he is collecting. We all watch a movie and finally the weather clears a little and we set off in the big zodiac to Mussel Inlet to see our first grizzly bears. Although we troop upstream and hang around for ages, there are no bears to be seen. There are some other people there, two adults and a small child. They are on the other bank and as we drift past in our boat the wife calls out to ask if we have seen any bears. After we return to the Island Wanderer, Kevin spots a mink on the shore right outside the salon window. Steve cooks his salmon for dinner and then we enjoy a movie and chocolates. This is the life!
20: 4th September, 2010 | After an early breakfast we head back to Mussel Inlet without Kevin. He wants to watch a movie. Steve moors the boat on a small island where we can safely watch for bears on either side. Melody and I notice the guy from yesterday staring at us from across the creek. Next thing, he rows his little boat across and introduces himself. He is Wayne McCrory, and a leading conservationist in BC. He is in no hurry and we listen fascinated as he explains how the bears are under threat. He leaves and we patiently wait, hopeful that a bear will appear. A couple of hours pass and finally, disappointed we hop in the zodiac to return to the Island Wanderer. First though, Steve pulls over to check out a possible cave in a nearby cliff. No one is willing to venture into the cave, but Melody spots a grove of crab apples – bears love them – and she takes Steve off to check for bears. I’m nervous and stay in the boat while they disappear into the bush. And that’s, when, all alone I see my first grizzly bear and her cub. No fear though, the creek is between us. Melody gets back in time to get a photo, but the bear is shy and disappears with her cub into the bush. Satisfied we return to the Island Wanderer and head off to Klemtu. Along the way we pass several salmon farms which we later learn employ 70-80 people from Klemtu. A humpback is hanging around Klemtu as we arrive, but no theatrics.
21: Its late afternoon, and for the first time docking is difficult. A strong off shore wind wants to blow us away from the dock. It takes two attempts before Steve has the boat safely secured to the dock. Later a police boat arrives and demonstrates a different mooring manoeuvre. Just slam it into the dock as hard as you can. Turns out, Klemtu had no fuel. Alan, the guy in charge, forgot to order fuel and it will be four days before more arrives. However, this place has plenty of fresh water and we have enough diesel to get to another fuel stop, so all is good. They also have hot showers, toilets and a laundry at the dock and we made good use of all three. The village consists of 420 First Nation people and a few white ones. They are very friendly. Every driver waves and the pedestrians all say "hello". Vern, a twenty three year old, comes to our boat and offers to show us through the Big House. The village is spread around a small bay, with the Big House at one end and the fuel dock at the other. The bay is alive with leaping salmon – no surprise as two small salmon rivers flow into it. Vern is one of only two accredited bear guides and is full of interesting information and stories about his community. The Big House is an impressive wooden building, holding about 400 people and decorated with paintings and carvings of whales, eagles, ravens and wolves representing the different tribes. Instead of tribes though, they are called bands. Inside, along each side, tiered seating looks down on a large sand covered floor with a place in the centre for a large bonfire. The building is cleverly designed to allow drafts to carry the smoke up through a large vent in the roof. We finish taking photos and Vern walks back around the bay with us to the dock where he has left his car. Apparently, even though there is only one road leading a short way from the village everyone owns a car which they drive backwards and forwards round the bay.
22: 5th September, 2010 | We are up early for a hot shower. A kayak is pulled up by the showers and wet suits lay drying. Wayne McCrory, (Mussel Inlet) tells us they are a German couple who had paddled from Mussel Inlet and arrived in the middle of the night – it's a long way. When we see them later, they tell Steve that they are hoping to immigrate out here. While we watched Melody photograph leaping salmon, a policeman approached and wanted to know who owned the Island Wanderer. Kevin helpfully pointed to Steve, who was apprehensive as he admitted ownership and somewhat relieved when all they wanted were snorkels and goggles to free a thick rope tangled round the police boat propeller. Steve was happy to lend them the gear they needed, but told them he wasn't getting in the water for them. We decide to hike to a lake up above the salmon hatchery. Kevin doesn't want to go and just as well, far too difficult with his crook knee, but an enjoyable workout for the rest of us. A light rain is falling when we get back to the village and while we shelter under an awning, Melody manages to get internet connection. Nothing from Nicky, but we do have an email from Sophie and Spiro. There is still enough time to move to our next stop before dark. While we are filling up with water a BC Ferry pulls in beside us. It is picking up the two Germans who are going to Bella Coola to catch a small plane to Vancouver and then back home. The humpback we saw on arriving is still hanging around. As we cruise to Green Inlet the rain continues. Horsefly Cove, a little bay just inside Green Inlet is our new home and as soon as the rain eases we hop in the zodiac and race a couple of miles in, to photograph the reversing rapids as the tide falls. Steve relates their experience the last time, when, caught above the rapids by the falling tide they had a hair raising trip down these roaring rapids. After a dinner of grilled chicken and salad we settle down to watch another movie. Imagine our surprise when we stand up to go to bed and notice the navigation lights on a large cruiser that has crept in beside us, unnoticed in the dark. | 6th September, 2010 | I’m woken early when our neighbours start their engines. Imagining no one is up, I throw on some clothes and race up to get a photo to show everyone. But Steve has already been up, checked it out and gone back to bed. Steady rain is falling and we spend the day on board at Horsefly Cove. Too wet to go out in the zodiac, we all take it easy, reading, sleeping and watching videos. Along the way we have passed numerous lighthouses, all painted red and white and beautifully maintained.
23: 7th September, 2010 | The sky is clearing as we weigh anchor and head off for a day of exploring at Swanson Bay before stopping at Khutze Inlet, where we will anchor for the night. Under a clear blue sky we watch a humpback as we cruise into Swanson Bay. Ahead of us a tall chimney is visible above the trees. The ruins of a pulp mill are here and we are anxious to explore. Easier said than done. The place is completely overgrown and one would need a machete to cut a path through. But, using a piece of pipe he found, Steve manages to hack a path for us to follow him in. I read that the first load of pulp was shipped out in 1909 and the mill closed in the early thirties. So, for the last eighty years, Mother Nature has been reclaiming this beautiful bay. It's hard to believe that there were 500 people, living, and working here once. In fact, except for the one chimney above the trees, nothing can be seen. Once on the beach, the chimney can't be seen and Steve had to take the zodiac back out into the bay to relocate it. As Steve bush bashes with his pipe, we follow, until finally we come across the most amazing ruins. It was like finding an ancient Mayan civilization. Walls, covered in thick layers of moss, indicated buildings up to five floors high. The roofs have long ago collapsed and are now covered with dense moss and trees. We need to take care as we walk across these areas as we can easily fall through into rooms below us. We cannot believe our eyes when we find the remains of a building housing three huge boilers. They were in such good condition it was hard to believe they had sat there for so many years. We found old railway tracks, several fire pits, fire sprinklers, an amazing network of water pipes and all sorts of metal equipment. Almost everything made of timber had long ago disintegrated.
24: 7th Cont. | While we are exploring this amazing site we can hear what sounds like a huge waterfall. We can see no way to reach it through the bush, so when we return to the zodiac, Steve takes us up the nearby creek. After only a few metres the stream divides into two, both blocking our path with small waterfalls. After returning to the Island Wanderer, Steve and I decide we will come back and climb up the creek to where we can hear the falls. We return, Steve moors the zodiac and we set off. Steve finds another metal bar to beat a way through the bush as we climb up through the forest. The noise is deafening as we spot the falls through the trees. A huge amount of water is pouring down the rock face. It's spectacular. We have to know where all this water is coming from. Up we climb. As we get higher, the bush disappears and we are climbing through a thick rainforest, at least 80 years old. Further up, another huge waterfall persuades us to keep on climbing. And then another. These falls are quite narrow, but a huge volume of water is creating a real spectacle. Along the way we keep finding evidence of those early pulp mill workers. Amazing water pipes, about 70cm wide, lined with timber and with coiled wire wrapped around the outside, appeared to come from somewhere above. After finding a tunnel that had been blasted to put the pipe through, and big enough to walk along, we have to know the source. We keep on climbing up, almost vertical in some parts to get through. The last stretch was the most difficult and dangerous, but we did it. At the top, a lake, (about 5miles long), and right in front of us a wooden dam, made from large logs and still standing after 100 years. We would like to continue exploring, but Steve says we have to go as the tide is falling and we don't want to find the zodiac beached.
25: 7th Cont. | The climb down the mountain is a lot faster that going up, but it is too late. We have been gone four hours and the zodiac is high and dry up the creek where we moored it. There is no way we can move it so we hike back around the bay to where the Island Wanderer is moored. Steve’s plan is to swim out, but he changes his mind as soon as he is knee deep in the freezing water. Finally, with Melody's assistance we manage to move the Island Wanderer close enough for Steve to jump on board. He then used one of the little zodiacs to rescue me. Shortly a black bear comes strolling along the beach. Cameras are kept busy. Steve is now concerned about the zodiac. There is enough stinky fish in the cooler on the zodiac to attract bears and they will probably wreck it trying to get to the fish, but there is nothing he can do till the tide comes in, early tomorrow. Before we go to bed, and after Melody and Kevin get a thorough ear bashing about our adventure, we go out onto the deck and gaze up a clear sky covered in millions of twinkling stars. It’s the first time I have seen the night sky in a pitch black setting. Absolutely beautiful.
26: Steve is the only one awake when the black bear has another stroll along the beach and low tide line. Again the tide is out too far to retrieve the zodiac so while we wait Steve goes fishing. The fish were begging to be caught and took the hook as it was being lowered into the water. Kevin spotted 5 little otters playing in the kelp beside our boat. So cute. Finally, Steve retrieves the zodiac, happy to find it intact. It’s another beautiful day and as we move further up Finlayson channel we have 2 whales swimming along ahead of us. They continue on and we turn right into Khutze Inlet, our new home for a couple of days. We cruise 5 miles up this inlet to anchor beside the stunning waterfall featured on the front cover. Wayne McCrory is moored in Steve’s usual anchorage, so we drop anchor further out. Wayne is leaving, but comes over for a chat. He has seen no salmon, only a grizzly sow and cub the previous day. Steve drops the crab pots and we take off up the creek in the 2 little zodiacs. Apart from heaps of seals sunning themselves on fallen logs there is nothing else. Except of course, the scenery. Spectacular mountains, some with snow, water cascading down all sides, against a clear blue sky. The salad is all gone. We make a stir fry with the last of the veges and a heap of crab. It turns out a huge success and thankfully there is enough for seconds. | 8th September, 2010
27: 9th September, 2010 | No sign of the bears Wayne saw two days ago and we are wondering if his yappy dog scared them off. But we did take the little zodiacs up the creek at high tide to another waterfall. Access was quite difficult, over rocks and fallen trees and we were stoked that Kevin, with a trusty stick managed to get to the falls. As we watched, Steve crawled across a huge, moss covered log to try and climb up the waterfall to give our photos perspective. It wasn't possible to get the photo shot, but he did get to the top of the falls. After he had climbed down we putt putted across to where we saw the seals yesterday. They all flopped into the water yesterday so this time we crept up quietly. In waist deep water, with our waders on, Steve pulled Melody along and I pulled Kevin in the other boat. It took about 15 minutes in freezing cold water, but we were able to get right up close without disturbing them. Our plan worked and the seals, about 40 of them continued to climb on and off the log while we watched and took photos. It was a long log. Melody said that they were waiting for the salmon that still have not arrived. After we returned to the boat, Steve took off to lift his crab pots. Another 14 crabs. Steve had them cooked before dinner and a special treat for me, a whole flounder, freshly caught by Steve.
28: 10th September, 2010 | We set off early for our next stop at Hartley Bay, where we hope to get diesel and meet up with Marven who will be our guide for the spirit bears. On the way we stop off at Butedale, an abandoned cannery. As we cruise in, there is an attractive waterfall on one side of the bay. This can't be said for the cannery, which is in disrepair and collapsing into the sea. It's easy to see though, that it was once a very large fish packing concern, with huge docks, warehouses and accommodation. Since 2002, Lou Simoneau has been acting as caretaker, but there is no way he can halt the decay. He is away and we are met by Cory who has recently arrived to spend the winter with Lou. Our plan had been to hike up to the lake above Butedale, but Cory insists on being our guide for a donation. We had heard that it was an easy 400m well defined trail, so Kevin came along too. Typically, it was much longer and steeper than expected, but Kevin valiantly persevered and made it up to the lake. Our so called guide was next to useless. We had read there was a boat at the lake, but he had no idea when asked where it was. We found a possible trail heading around the lake, so while Kevin and Melody began the return walk, Steve and I set off to find the boat, with our guide trailing behind. What a laugh, we found the boatshed. The roof had collapsed the on top of it and beside it, the remains of a timber boat, sitting in the water on the edge of the lake, its motor totally underwater. To get power, Lou has rigged up an alternator to one of the two old turbines in the power house. With the use of an inverter, he manages to run a couple of freezers and light bulbs. Anything else and one of the freezers gets turned off. Curious about the advertised showers, Steve asks Cory how they heat the water. “We boil the kettle on the wood stove” was the answer. Killing ourselves with laughter, we decide to use the ones on our boat. There is good fresh water at the dock, but little pressure. Filling is taking so long, Steve and I take Cory up on an offer to show us through one of the warehouses still standing and normally out of bounds for safety reasons. It is an enormous, timber structure and inside the timber walls and ceilings are still in near perfect condition although 100 years old. Imagine our surprise to find a bowling alley inside with a full set of pins and balls. My first bowl left only three pins, but my next was a gutter job, so more practice. As we wave goodbye, Abi and Cosmo are still at the window eying off the local cat, Tiger. A large south bound BC ferry passes as we head north to Hartley Bay. It is the same ferry that we last saw when we were heading to Codville lagoon. A light rain is falling as we nose into the government dock, behind a large rock breakwater at Hartley Bay. This is a First Nation community of about 200 people. We fill up with diesel and move to a mooring for the night. This is a dry community, but that doesn't stop a drunken party in one of the boats on our dock.
30: 11th September, 2010 | Steve, up first, gets to see the old bloke next to us doing his morning stretches, stark naked on the deck of his boat. He quickly ducks out of sight when he spots his audience. Steve is up early to catch up with Marven, before he takes his clients out to see bears. Marven is probably the most knowledgeable bear guide in BC and he will be taking us to see bears on Thursday. As we are out of bread, Kevin and I ask Mary at the fuel dock if there is bread available. She sends us up to Aunty Belle, who bakes her own bread and is happy to sell it. What a treat! We are invited in and Aunty Belle, a great grandma, is happy to tell us all about her family and Hartley Bay, where she was born and still lives. This community has no cars, no roads, no shops, but Aunty Belle is sitting in front of the biggest TV I have ever seen. It rains all afternoon and we spend the time figuring out where to spend the next 3 to 4 days while we wait till Thursday. We decide to cruise down and explore the west side of Princess Royal Island. We go to bed hoping for a fine day. | 12th September, 2010 | The weather is still wet and the cloud low, so we are surprised to hear a float plane that arrived yesterday, trying to take off. After about three or four aborted attempts it was finally airborne. The cloud was so heavy it had to circle round to gain altitude. Then it was away. Glad I wasn't a passenger. The weather has been clearing all morning and we set off around midday. Instead of following yesterdays plans, we take off in another direction to check for bears along the shores of Gribbell Island. Again, no bears, but we watch a pod of six humpbacks swimming along. We are near Bishop Bay, a popular moorage, probably because of the hot springs, so our plans are altered and we cruise in to spend some time here. It will be nice to soap up, wash our hair and have a long soak in the pools. Only one other boat is in the bay, and as Steve decides where to drop anchor, the skipper of Pacific Lure, Ken, calls up on the radio and invites us all for drinkies. After we have had a relaxing soak in the hot pool, we grab some beer and wine and spend a couple of hours with Ken and Isabel, the cook. Isabel is actually an ex air hostess, now realtor who for the fun of it answered Ken's advert for a cook for a 2 week trip up to Prince Rupert. She is cooking for Ken, a National Geographic photographer, and Vern, a bear guide who we had already met at Klemtu. It was most enjoyable and they generously added spare supplies they had, to our pantry. Kevin was especially thrilled with the bag of potatoes, me with the fresh salmon. We were also given pumpkin, onions, lettuces and Isabel made a dessert pie. In return, we traded fresh crab and canned food.
31: 13th September, 2010 | Not a cloud in the sky. After another soak in the pools, Melody, Steve and I take off in the zodiac to explore Goat Harbour, the next inlet along the coast. Kevin chooses to stay on board with his book and the cats. As soon as we turn out of Bishop Bay, we have humpbacks and dolphins feeding right in front of us. Steve cuts the engine and as we watch we can hear them “talking” to each other. Goat Inlet is beautiful, with a sandy beach and a rocky salmon stream. We go ashore and climb up above the stream looking for bear scat. Up in the forest are the remains of a salmon beside a dollop of scat, but no bear. We climb up to a ridge to find an old logging road with a bridge over the creek. Below the bridge, we can see a pool among the rocks with a couple of large salmon swimming around. It's a perfect bear habitat. Melody has a nasty scrape on her leg so we both head off down the logging road to the beach. Because the road is on the other side of the creek from our zodiac, Steve volunteers to return through the much more difficult forest we have just climbed through. He made the right choice. He pulls up quickly when he spots two large wolves just above him. Completely oblivious, they stroll right by without seeing him as he watches them. Of course, Melody had the cameras. And while we saw so much bear poo, I took the safety catch off the bear spray, not a bear to be seen. By the time we have the beach in sight, Steve is already moored and walking up the logging road to meet us. A large schooner, “Maple Leaf”, is dropping anchor in Goat Harbour as we take off. We all want a dip in the hot pools, but Kevin thinks it's too late, so stays on board. On the way back to the boat we stop and chat to Ken, who has just arrived back with John, the videographer, and Vern, the guide. They have seen bears, and while the weather is still fine, arrangements are made for Melody to go to the platforms tomorrow.
32: 14th September, 2010 | In the end Steve took Melody over to the platforms. First though, he took four people from a nearby boat to the hot pools. They didn't have a dinghy, so he waited for them to finish and returned them to their boat. Once he was back from dropping Melody off, we three went over to the hot pools again. After our soak, we built a bonfire for the party we had planned that night. We were looking forward to roasting marshmallows and sharing a few drinks with our neighbours. Sadly, it was not to be. Solid rain, set in during the afternoon so our plans had to be cancelled. On our way back from our soak, we stop by “Pacific Lure” to check on Isabel who is on board alone. She would like to have a soak in the hot pools, but has no way to get ashore. So Steve gets a small zodiac down off the roof of their boat, pumps it up and lowers it down to the water for her. There is only one paddle and she has no idea how to use it. Steve patiently explains what to do, gives her a PFD and we tow her over to the dock. Half an hour later, I look out the window and see Isabel, in the little dingy, going round in circles. Steve grins and says “should we go and help her”. The problem is apparent as soon as we get close. Instead of kneeling in the bow and leaning over with the paddle, her back is to the bow and she can barely get her arms over the side. Once she follows Steve’s instructions properly, she is fine and paddles back to Pacific Lure by herself. We can't have our bonfire, but the hot pools are under cover. So after dinner, we set off in the dark with a candle and one torch. It is very dark, there are no lights, no moonlight or starlight. We are enjoying our soak when we notice the schooner we had seen yesterday at Goat Harbour dropping anchor out in the bay. Before long, we see 2 zodiacs full of people with lights on their heads. They land at the dock and start up the trail looking like Snow White's seven dwarfs. They turn out to be ten Chinese tourists and two crew. It's Melody who picks the Kiwi accent in the dark. She is one of the crew, and calls out that there is beer for any Kiwis. I don’t think she expected there were four of us in the dark. Turns out we had already met her, four weeks ago, on our first morning at sea. She was one of the whale watch people who had stopped our zodiac.
34: 15th September, 2010 | I wanted another soak before we left. A vote is taken and I lose three to one. Instead, we set off for Hartley Bay where we will be meeting Marven first thing tomorrow. He will be taking us to the viewing platforms to see the spirit bears. On the way we see more whales, but we wait in vain for them to breach. Its mid afternoon when we arrive at Hartley Bay and a short while later a seaplane touches down. Ian McAllister, Marven and the N.G. photographer have arrived back from a rally in Vancouver to stop a plan to bring super tankers through the Great Bear Rain Forest. Any spill at all would be an unimaginable, ecological disaster. Ian McAllister and his wife Karen have devoted their lives to conservation of this stunning area and its wildlife. He has published several books full of his beautiful photos and spent years researching this area. His trimaran was docked beside us and he generously autographed three of his books for us. There is a lake behind Hartley Bay and Steve, Kevin and I set off to find it. There are no roads in this community, only elevated boardwalks, wide enough for quad bikes to ride along. So, after getting directions, we head off to find the lake. Ian McAllister had already warned Steve that the boardwalk to the lake was dangerous with rotten and missing boards and others with no nails that tilt if you don't stay in the middle. He was right. But the only accident was me stepping in dog poo. Twenty minutes later we arrive at a small boat shed beside the stream we have been following. We can go no further and there is no lake. Disappointed we return to the dock where we are told that the lake is another eight kms further on. We have used up Aunty Belle’s bread, so Kevin returns to her house for more. She is baking tomorrow and gives Kevin a slightly mouldy loaf for free and promises two loaves for Friday.
36: 16th September cont. | Up early at 7.00am, to meet Marven, our guide. His boat is just along the dock, so not far to walk. It takes about 45 minutes to travel to the bear platforms. There is no jetty, you step straight off the bow on to the rocks. Kevin did really well, including the walk through the forest to the platforms. Once at the platforms, there are two, you stay there for the day hoping that a bear may come out to feed on the salmon. It is very primitive, no toilets, if you need to go, you have to be escorted by one of the four guides with us. They politely turn their backs. Needless to say, I didn't need to go, but Kevin couldn't last. I only saw one woman desperate enough. While we were waiting, there were plenty of salmon struggling upstream to keep our attention, along with interesting information shared with us by our guides. Ken, from Pacific Lure was there and did he have a story to tell. Isabel, so confident with her paddling skills, had decided to paddle over to a nearby waterfall. Forgetting lesson number 2, she neglected to tie up the boat when she went ashore. Next time she saw her boat it had gone AWOL. Fortunately, we have a happy ending. A boat, entering Bishop Bay, spotted her empty boat and was on the lookout. Isabel wasn't that hard to spot yelling and waving on the shore. The first bear arrived about 11.00am. The quiet chatter ceased, replaced by the click, click of multiple cameras. Everyone was excited, our first bear and it was a white spirit bear. We realised how privileged we were, when one of the guides told us that the chief of his band (tribe) had never seen one and now he was too old. Melody and Stephen, along with the National Geographic photographer were allowed to set up with their cameras right on the river bank, under the platform. The rest of us stayed up top. That was okay because we were less than 2metres up and had an awesome view. Almost immediately, a black bear came up the stream from the other direction. We felt like we were at a tennis match as we switched direction to watch and film both bears catching and eating the salmon. Eventually, they both disappeared, apparently, they like to nap between meals. So it was back to watching and waiting. Seven other people sharing our platform got tired and left. They should have waited a few more minutes. The black bear came back, along with two white spirit bears. The black and one of the white bears both ambled past right in front of our noses. Eventually, it was time for them to leave and for us to head back too. The guides are great. They stay as long as the bears do and do their utmost to make sure the photographers get good shots. Just when we thought the day couldn't get any better, right in front of Marven's boat, a whale launched into the air. I only saw the splash, but no worries, Marven stopped the boat while Melody and Kevin grabbed their cameras. I hope Kevin's video turned out, because that whale was having a ball. He was breaching, tail slapping, waving his huge fins and singing out loud. He was one huge, happy mammal. To top off the display, a perfectly flat ocean with a beautiful setting sun turning the spray golden. Finally, about 8.00pm we docked back at Hartley Bay. Melody and Steve make plans to go with Marven early tomorrow, but the Greers are planning a sleep in. Too tired and too late for Steve’s planned dinner, we happily gobbled up a feed of chilli beans on toast.
38: Steve and Melody have long gone by the time we get up. After breakfast we head up to Aunty Belle’s for the promised bread and have a nice chat with her and her son Tony. Later we meet Mickey, one of the guides from yesterday and he tells us that we can borrow the kayaks at the boat shed and paddle up to the lake. We stop at the hatchery for the boat shed keys and set off along the elevated timber walkway where we had gone last time with Steve. About 30 minutes later we are at the boat shed. Inside there are 3 kayaks and a double canoe. We pick the canoe, find two PFDs and between us launch the canoe through the grass. First though, Kevin has to pee and I want to take off my thermal underwear it's so hot. There is no one around. Being a bloke Kevin relieves himself off the jetty and it's not till I’ve stripped to my knickers, that he notices a guy picking berries in the bushes. All we can see is his head poking over the bushes. My jeans are back on and we paddle off in record time. The sky is so blue without a cloud to be seen. We paddle upstream a lovely lake. There are lots of reeds growing along the shore, small beaches and rocky outcrops. Not a cloud in the sky. Not a soul around (we hope!). It is so hot we pull our jeans to our knees and paddle, bare foot in the warm water. It's a perfect afternoon. As we paddle back along the stream to the boatshed, the water is swarming with deep red salmon. After describing them to Steve, they have to be sockeye. Back at the boatshed, the berry picker is still hanging round. I wonder why? We get the keys back to the hatchery before 5.00pm and carry on back to the dock. Steve and Melody are not back yet, so we set off for a walk round town. We wander about for an hour with a gentle old dog, who followed us from the dock. Happy with Kevin's pace he stayed with us, until back at the Island Wanderer, he lay down on the dock beside our boat. It's after 8.00pm when Melody and Steve arrive back with Marven. Although they had seen bears and captured them on camera, the day was long, tiring and a bit disappointing. | 17th September, 2010
39: I check the dock, but our old doggy friend has gone home. Steve is keen to paddle up to the lake, but we decide to head off while the weather is so good. First though, we need to fuel up and take on water. While Kevin visits Aunty Belle for more bread, Steve moves the Island Wanderer to the fuel dock. There is no one on duty and Kevin is back before anyone turns up. While we are waiting, we are overwhelmed by the most dreadful odour. We knew our bilge was very full and it was Kevin, who was the last straw. The tanks overflowed and the stench would have made a night cart operator proud. Finally, fueled up we turn south and for the first time, dolphins are swimming beside us. Next, a few whales catch our attention as we cruise down Whale Channel. Then, Steve spots a rock covered in sea lions. We cruise over and two large rocks are covered with sea lions of all shapes and sizes. Kevin and Melody are busy with their cameras, until finally the stench drives them back inside and we move away. As we cruise into Racey Inlet, our new home, four orcas are swimming along. The first we have seen since our second day out. This anchorage is narrow and poorly charted. Although the boat has a state of the art depth sounder, I stand on the bow as back up. As I watch for rocks, I see the most amazing jellyfish. The water is teeming with them. Melody called the largest ones “Lions Mane” and it was easy to see why. Some of them were huge. Once the boat was secure, we all set off in the zodiac to check out the stream at the head of the inlet. It was very rocky, and so difficult to get the zodiac close enough to get off, we had to return to the Island Wanderer and put our waders on. Once ashore, Melody found a dead salmon, in near perfect condition. Steve claims it for crab bait, along with another one we find nearby. We try to walk upstream, but it is too difficult, so we return to the Island Wanderer. The reason we have anchored at Racey Inlet, is because Melody had been told there was a pack of wolves with pups here. Problem, though, is we don’t know exactly where. We had noticed a little cove as we cruised in that looked like it had potential, so back in the zodiac and off we go. The tide is out and heaps of salmon are splashing about, waiting for enough water to get upstream. After a few casts, Steve has hooked one, which is also destined for crab bait. Melody has already topped that, by catching two, a male and female in her hands, and relocating them to a nice pool upstream. Before we leave, Steve baits and sets a couple of crab pots. | 18th September, 2010
40: 19th September, 2010 | Turns out jellyfish are not so lovely when they completely clog the generator intake. Despite Steve’s best efforts, nothing can be found that will fit down the pipe to clear it. Without the generator we only have limited battery power. In Kevin's words, we're knackered. But it's a beautiful day and giving up on the generator for the moment, three of us set off in the zodiac to check out a neighbouring inlet. Surf inlet is thirteen miles long and we had read there was a dam and mine at the head. So, as well as exploring the site, Steve is hoping that we might find something suitable to clear the blocked pipe. Melody decides to stay on the Island Wanderer, but there will be no hot drinks for her. Surf Inlet ends at a stunning waterfall over a concrete dam that separates Bear Lake from the inlet. It's quite spectacular, about 20metres high with more water falling over rocks below the dam. A large, abandoned power house is on one side below the dam. We moor the zodiac on the other side where we can see the remains of a road and a huge rusty excavator. We check out the excavator and head up the overgrown road. Once above the dam, we find the remains of a camp. There are five caravans, 1 truck and a couple of boats. Although it's pretty obvious they have been there for some time, there were signs that someone has been there recently. Shocking though, was the amount of abandoned gear and the value of it. This site is on Princess Royal Island, one of the largest off shore island of BC and one of the few protected areas where logging is completely banned. It looks like the loggers have simply walked off, without cleaning up their mess. The boys find plenty to interest them as they explore the camp. I find bear scat and wolf tracks, but no animals to film. On the way back to the zodiac, Steve finds exactly what he needs to fix the generator, which he loads on with a few other souvenirs. Back at the Island Wanderer, we decide to have another go at getting up the creek as we know there is a lake up there somewhere. Kevin and Melody pike out, so it's up to Steve and I to find the lake. After stranding the large zodiac high and dry at Swanson Bay, Steve wasn't about to do that again, so we paddle a little zodiac up to the creek. Once moored, we quickly find an animal trail and follow it up through the forest. Along the trail, scat and salmon remains remind us how sensible to have our bear spray on hand. Stepping out of the forest, there is a waterfall directly ahead, with salmon vainly attempting to get over it. Too rapid and too high for them, the salmon valiantly continue to throw themselves up out of the water, some even crashing onto the rocks beside the falls. Finally, worn out, they become food for the waiting bears and wolves. We trek on up a little way to the lake, but noticing more falls at the other end we carry on to find a much larger lake above. A bear trail and scat along the shore suggests that this is where the salmon are heading to spawn. I hope some make it. Just in case we spot a bear or a wolf feeding along the stream, we try to be extra quiet on the way back, but they were probably watching us and keeping out of our way. After dinner, as night was falling, Melody and I quietly paddled back to the creek, hoping to spot a wolf. No wolf, but floating along under a rising moon, was just magical.
42: 20th September, 2010 | 7.00am and Melody and I are set off in the little zodiac again, quietly paddling back to film the wolf Steve had seen earlier at the creek. There is early morning mist on the water, dozens of seagulls and a couple of juvenile bald eagles are scavenging amongst the low tide rocks, but no wolf. We climb up to the tree line and quietly wait, but the wolf does not return. After breakfast, Steve and Melody take the large zodiac to Chapple Inlet, where bears have been reported. No bears, but they catch a shark and a rock fish, both caught and released. Today we are cruising south along the west coast of Princess Royal Island to Laredo Inlet. The day is beautiful and sunny and the breeze is light. This was fortunate as this stretch is fairly exposed to the open ocean and is avoided by most boaties and all cruise ships. No one lives along this coast, but it would be great for beach combing, we can see plenty of timber and flotsam washed up when the westerlies howl in from the Pacific Ocean. Its late afternoon and after four hours cruising we get to our anchorage at Bay of Plenty. As soon as the Island Wanderer is secured, we all climb into our waders and head up the stream in the two little zodiacs. The tide is falling and we have to leave the zodiacs close to the mouth of the stream and walk the rest of the way. We are looking for signs of salmon and bear. There is nothing at all and after a while, Kevin, finding it difficult to keep up returns to the zodiacs. Another kilometre further on and Melody and I stop while Steve continues on alone. We've walked a long way, for no reward, although we do see a huge burl. Burls are odd looking growths on the trunks of trees, like giant warts and much sought after by woodworkers. Steve is more fortunate, further upstream he sees plenty of salmon and the biggest flock of bald eagles he has ever seen.
43: 21st September, 2010 | Another gorgeous day. Melody and Kevin stay on board, while Steve and I take off across Laredo Inlet to Fifer Inlet to check out a trail leading to a lake. Not wanting to beach the large zodiac high and dry again he rafts the little zodiac along side. With no weight in it, the little zodiac kept trying to come on board, forcing Steve to slow down. But, it wasn't far, and in no time we were anchored in a delightful little inlet. After paddling ashore in the small zodiac, we were on our way. Not for long though, Steve pulls up sharply and says “We have to go back”. Both of us had forgotten the bear spray. Always kept in the large zodiac, we didn't have far to paddle back for it. Thank goodness for our poor memories. Without either of us noticing, in the few minutes since we had landed, the incoming tide had almost reached our little boat. So after paddling out to retrieve the bear spray, we found a more secure mooring for our little zodiac. Where the creek flowed out into the inlet, the bottom was a large flat rock shelf, from one side to the other. Not finding a trail to follow, and the creek looking easy to negotiate, we set off upstream. Almost immediately, we saw salmon splashing in amongst the rocks. Steve said that they were coho with a few pinks amongst them. Walking upstream quickly became too difficult, so we climbed up the bank and began bushwhacking until we stumbled upon a bear trail. That ran out too, obviously the bears only walked to the creek for fish and not to the lake where we were headed. Suddenly Steve hears rustling nearby. Just in case, we get the bear spray out of our packs. I think the bear was happy to get out of our way. The lake is pretty, but nothing special. However, Steve is peeved. Trout are rising, and he didn't bring his fly rod or the gold pan, and this stream is perfect for panning. As I stand looking down the lake, I hear a gun shot. With a licence, it is still legal to kill bears here, and I feel sick thinking that I have just heard it happen. On our return we pass a fallen tree, covered in small burls. Steve must have been pondering the problem he had had coming over with the wayward zodiac and he has figured out how to tie the little zodiac along the side and out of the water so securely that he can open the throttle full on.
44: 21st September, cont. | We are back at the Carver just after lunch and after checking the charts the decision is made to head off to Shearwater. The route is different to our outbound trip from Shearwater and follows a long, narrow passage through the mountains. Along this passage two dolphins decide to stop what they are doing and surf our wake. They look exactly like miniature orcas. Melody called them, Pacific white-sided dolphins. We were cruising at 11 knots, so it was pretty amazing they kept up as long as they did. Later, in Milbanke Sound, Steve sees a tug ahead with its tow. Using binoculars, we all try to guess what is under tow. As it gets closer Melody correctly guesses fish pens and Kevin picked the fuel station. Steve then spots another tug, ahead and going our way. It appears enormous, and as we catch up we can see that the tug has an entire resort behind it. Four separate tows, one behind the other. The largest barge is carrying a three story hotel. You had to see it to believe it. Melody said, “talk about meals on wheels, this is ridiculous”. We didn't catch up to the tug before we turned off to a secure anchorage for the night. Lockhart Bay, is full of jellyfish, there has to be hundreds of thousands. Fortunately, much smaller than those that stuffed up the intake pipe at Racey Inlet. While Steve BBQ’d steaks for dinner, Melody fished off the back platform. Success, sort of, two little rock fish that she put back to grow up.
45: Little fish are jumping and while Steve readies the boat for departure, we watch a couple of sea lions feasting on these small fish. Then it's off to Shearwater marina. No sign of the humpback who had entertained us during our last visit but we haven't left the fuel dock before the second act arrives. The marina is full of small fish, thousands of them. Looking down into the water its all you can see. Shoal after shoal, created waves of living fish as they desperately try to escape a pack of 12 to 15 hungry sea lions. Up above, hundreds of seagulls fly, waiting for the next wave of fish, to swoop down and help themselves to their share of the feast. One little fish, managed to escape the sea lions by sculling across the top of the water and under the dock, only to be set upon on the other side by 3 or 4 gulls. These fish are the size of large herrings, and a bit too large and heavy for the gulls, in fact, one dropped a fish on the dock in front of Melody. Several small children are on the dock, excitedly fishing with landing nets. The fish they catch are swimming around in a large bucket of water on the dock. The noise created as thousands of fish tried to swim over top of each other to escape the sea lions was so loud, it was clearly caught on Kevin's video camera. The sea lions kept up their hunt all day and all day, we listened to the loud swoosh, as the sea lions herded the fish and the fish did their best to escape their fate. Our world is certainly shrinking. We are sharing the dock with a 47metre cruiser, built on the Brisbane River and skippered by its Gold Coast owner. He has arrived here via, New Caledonia, Tonga, Hawaii and Alaska. Shearwater is also home to a rather unique, two storey motel, built entirely of shipping containers, stacked on top of one another. The day passed quickly and for the third time, the cook got a night off. Remembering the disappointing meals served to me on my last visit, I shy away from fish and hearing that the chef was Chinese, I ordered ginger beef, onions and rice. Absolutely delicious. | 22nd September, 2010
46: 23rd September, 2010 | The forecast is bad and with the weather closing in Steve, decides to make a run for Ocean Falls. With everything battened down, we set off and before long encounter driving rain. With nothing to see, Kevin and I hunker down in the Salon with our books and Cosmo. Abbie, the other pussycat is on the bridge, curled up beside the skipper, her spot whenever we are underway, no matter how rough. The most direct route for us is through Gunboat Passage. This passage, narrow, intricate and with numerous rocks and kelp patches, is recommended only for small vessels. However, it is also protected from the effects of most weather and with the navigation gear on board should be a piece of cake. So, despite poor visibility, Gunboat Passage is negotiated and we turn into Fisher Channel. More exposed now, the boat pushes through a nasty chop until we turn into Cousins Inlet, and ahead the ghost town of Ocean Falls. Through the rain we can see the huge dam and below, on top of the docks, an extensive mill. To the left, are tall modern buildings, and it is only after docking that we realise that they are empty and derelict. Just as Melody and Steve had described. Once the boat is secured and power connected, Kevin and Melody figure out how to connect to the internet. The wharfinger gives them a code and no time is lost checking emails. With the rain still falling and the light fading, we settle down for dinner and TV. Exploring can wait till tomorrow.
47: 24th September, 2010 | Heading on through town towards the dam, we pass more buildings, falling down, covered in moss and creepers, their empty windows, letting the wind howl through them. With the grey sky and the rain falling, the place looks really forlorn and sad. Closer to the dam, wild blackberries provide an unexpected feast for us. They are plump and delicious and I plan to return with a bowl to fill. Just below the dam, we pass the remains of a 50m swimming pool that has been bulldozed into the sea. There is no water falling over the dam. With repairs needed, the water is being diverted through pipes. Melody has photos from when they were here last, showing water pouring over the dam. As we return to the dock, two deer, a doe and stag wander along the roadside. Although they wander off ahead of us, they show no fear and we get some good photos. | Snuggled up under two doonas, we wake up to the sound of rain falling on the deck above us. It's a pleasant sound, but not for the plans we have for the day. The rain is intermittent, and during a lull, with wet weather gear on, we all set off for a look around Ocean Falls. We are the only people on the dock and as we head into town, it looks like we are the only people in Ocean Falls. Thirty years ago, Ocean Falls had the second largest mill on the coast, with a population over 5000. Now about 100 people live here in the summer, dropping to around 40 in winter. Most of them live about a mile down the road, a little place called Martin Valley. Perhaps they are still in bed. As we walk past the Martin Inn Hotel, the bar is open, so the boys pop in. Melody and I follow. You would swear you were part of a disaster movie or a ride at a theme park. Water is dripping through the ceiling and the Axminster is falling apart. Paint is peeling off the walls and the dart boards are trying to hang on, one had already given up. Without electric lights it is gloomy and spooky. The hotel, six stories high and with 400 rooms was at one time the second largest in BC. Steve tries to find a way up, but the stairs are barred.
48: 24th September cont. | By the time we get back to the dock, it is raining heavily and shows no signs of clearing. With nothing else to do, and too wet to pick blackberries, we decide to cast off and head up to Eucott Bay Hot Springs for a soak. Kevin and I are cold. So is Cosmo. He snuggles up on my lap under a cosy blanket. Meanwhile, Steve, noticing, decides that we will be too cold, going ashore in the pouring rain to soak in hot tubs that are out in the pouring rain and continues on to Bella Coola. Although we miss out seeing a huge painting on a rock face along the channel, Melody has a photo for us. The weather is foul and visibility almost nonexistent as the Island Wanderer punches up the Dean Channel towards Bella Coola. The hurricane shows no sign of abating and it is almost 6.30pm when we arrive at the marina. This late in the season, we had expected a choice of berths, but the marina is full and the only berth is at the two hour loading dock. In the pouring rain, with our wet weather gear on, we secure the Island Wanderer and large zodiac. We check the wharfinger’s office, but he has gone home. | 25th September, 2010 | The rain hasn't eased all night. Without permission to moor at the loading dock, we have to wait for the wharfinger to arrive. His office hours, posted on the wall, mean nothing and he eventually arrived at 9.30am. With his OK we can stay where we are. The marina is a couple of kilometres from Bella Coola and we need to hire a car, so Steve and I, wearing gumboots and wet weather gear, trudge off to town. Already, parts of the road are underwater, but not enough to stop us. The hotel has a car for hire, but it is already taken. After trudging back through the rain to the marina, we eventually hire a car from Eagle Lodge. Happy to have transport, we head off in our little car to the supermarket for a few things and then over to the library for internet. Melody's laptop wont connect so we try the pub. Not a bad place to be on a miserable, wet, afternoon with hot chips and cold beer and wine. Melody gets connected to their power as well. Before we know it the afternoon has slipped away and its dinner time. It's warm and cosy in the pub, why would we want to go out in the rain? The owners are Korean, so we all order Korean food from the menu, very tasty.
49: 26th September, 2010 | Our plan today, was a 16km drive up the valley to Hagensborg, and a visit to the farmers market. But, 3km from the marina, we are stopped. The road has been washed out in at least two places and only trucks are getting through. So instead we get to drive up and down Bella Coola’s eight little streets. One is close to the river, so we park the car and check out the river. It is a raging torrent, the colour of coffee latte and probably as wide as a football field. The current is so powerful that waves a metre high keep rising up out of the swirling water. As we return to the marina, we follow a sign to Clayton Falls. They are only 2.5km up a metal road and behind the hydro-electric generating station. From a viewing platform, you would normally watch the water falling down over silky smooth rocks, but not today. Today, so much water is roaring down, the rocks are completely covered, and the viewing platform and anyone on it is saturated. Back on board at the marina, we don't know what to do. Information is sketchy. There is no one at the fuel dock and the water outside of the marina where the river discharges is full of debris, including large, and potentially dangerous logs. Thinking that we might find out what's happening, we head for the pub. Over more beers and wine we find out that it's a disaster. The worst flooding in more than 50 years has left the airport underwater, along with numerous homes, many without water or sewerage. They are estimating that the only road out of Bella Coola is going to take 3 months to repair. Two girls, who waded in, said that the water was up to their waists and that was along the road we had planned to travel on this morning. A lot of people, along with their vehicles are trapped. It's a bonus for accommodation providers, but, I suspect that they are expecting tempers to fray as four more policemen have just arrived from Prince Rupert by zodiac. | 27th September, 2010 | Still raining. We drive to the supermarket, but they are out of bread and milk. They have a bakery, but the oven is broken. Steve volunteers to make scones. We return to the Island Wanderer and watch a movie with hot scones and jam. After lunch, the boys decide to return the rental car. Once back, Kevin realised that our alcohol stock was very low and I wouldn't be fit to live with, so with no car and a bad knee he headed off to walk the 3km back to town. The rain has eased, so Steve and I, happy to get some exercise went with him. Melody thoughtfully suggests a backpack, so as not to be seen walking along with wine casks. Good plan, but the store owner kindly supplied us with a vodka carton that probably looked a lot worse. While Steve went to the supermarket for coke, KJ and I started back to the marina. Ten minutes later, a truck toots as it goes past with Steve, smirking and waving at the window. The truck stops just ahead of us and we get a lift too. The driver, a local fisherman and band member, thought it was a real hoot. We have heard that about 100 people are trapped here, unable to get out. The BC Ferry is still here and the word is that they are negotiating for $1000 a head to ship people out. A helicopter has been surveying damage and reports that in one section, 2km of road is missing. We are fine though. Warm and cosy with plenty to eat and drink.
50: 28th September, 2010 | What a night. Gale force winds and rain. Constant noise, keeping everyone awake except me. Steve was up checking our moorings and watched a large 60ft police boat, dock around 11.00pm. From Campbell River, it had another contingent of police on board. By mid morning the wind has abated and the forecast is fair, so we decide to bolt. There are logs everywhere in the filthy, brown water. And not just logs, but entire trees. Everyone is on lookout as the Island Wanderer crawls out into the channel. We had expected to be clear of logs after a couple of kilometres, but, hard to believe, we travelled somewhere between 10 and 12 kms this way. Needless to say we were the only boat on the water. Eventually the logs thinned out, but not for long as we came across several tide lines with logs and rubbish littered across them. The water stayed the same dirty colour all the way to Kwatna Inlet. Inside Kwatna Inlet, we are finally free of logs and with the sun now shining we enjoy the scenery. Steve slows down to photograph another beautiful waterfall and then we turn into one of the loveliest bays. At the entrance, a drying rock is packed with seals and seagulls, with no room for late comers. The head of the bay has large drying flats on both sides of a large, tree covered island, with a small river flowing on either side of the island. There are several, steep rock faces, with beautiful streaks of colour, so intense, they look like they have been painted on. After securing the Island Wanderer, Steve and Melody head off to catch bait for the crab pots. Disappointed, their catch consists of one flounder and a starfish. With no bait, Steve experiments with tins of cat food, piercing holes in the tins and tying them into the pots. The tide is in and after setting the crab pots, we all take the large zodiac upstream. There are bald eagles everywhere, but no fish so no bears.
51: 29th September, 2010 | It looks like a fine day, but it's not until 11.00am that the fog clears and we see the sun. Kevin stays on board while the rest of us zoom across the bay to an old logging road for exploring. The remains of a camp with cartridge case on the ground, indicates hunters. We find bear scat and prints, but that is all. A short way in, our way is barred by six huge logs across the road. We clamber over them to a creek, too deep and too rapid to cross in our gumboots. We should have worn waders. The loggers must have had a bridge here once as we can see another pile of huge logs on the other side. We head downstream and after pottering around for a bit and collecting some pretty stones for Sienna, we head back to the boat. Steve’s cat food experiment is a huge success, with 27 crabs in the pots. Ten are released and while the rest are cooking, Melody serves hot YMCA and we take off to Kwakume ,our next stop before we make the jump across Queen Charlotte Sound which is the longest stretch of open ocean. On the way we keep ourselves busy shelling our crabs. As soon as the Island Wanderer is secured, we take off in the zodiac to catch more bait for the crab pots. This is the place where a huge number of crabs were caught earlier on in our trip. Steve needs sixteen fish and while he manages the zodiac, removes the hooks and does the other necessary deed. Melody and I catch all the fish he needs. Back on board, with the crab pots set, we enjoyed a wine or two on the front deck and the most beautiful sunset. Even the cats came out to enjoy the evening.
52: 30th September, 2010 | Kevin and I get up when we hear the zodiac take off. Steve is off to lift his pots, and we are keen to see his catch. The pots are so heavy Steve thinks he has snagged the first pot as he tries to lift it off the bottom. A new record, 106 crabs. Eighty one get another chance and are returned to the sea. The pot is already boiling and the crabs are cooked in record time. The radar is turned on as we leave in thick fog. It's going to be full ahead slow as we crawl up Fitz Hugh Sound towards the open ocean. As well as avoiding other shipping, we have to keep a sharp lookout for floating logs and trees. Fortunately the radar can pick up logs well ahead. We can't believe the number of huge trees, at least 20 metres long, floating in the ocean. The most dangerous are dead heads. Floating vertically with only a small piece of the trunk visible, they have so much weight below the water, they do not bob up and down. In fact, you would swear that they were attached to the bottom. Connecting with these is like running into a concrete wall and can cripple a boat. While Steve and I shelled crabs, our First Officer, Melody, manned the bridge. Kevin helped with the crabs until he claimed the smell was making him sick. However, the 3metre swell, probably contributed to his malaise. We overtook Maple Leaf, the yacht we had last seen at Bishop Bay, her mast almost touching the water as she wallowed in the heavy swell. The fog stayed low on the water almost all the way, it was quite eerie, like being in the Bermuda Triangle. But when it lifted, we were greeted by an impossibly blue sky, without a cloud in it. It was late afternoon as we cruised into Port MacNeill for fuel. Before we dock, we give way to a float plane, taking off right beside us. The fuel dock is beside a new marina where we are able to dock for the night. With plenty of power and water off the dock, we all enjoy a hot shower, followed by crab salad and boiled potatoes.
53: 1st October, 2010 | Today we are going home. We cruise out into Johnstone Strait under a cloudless blue sky. Although we keep watch for whales, we only see a couple blow in the distance. With the salmon run almost over, the orcas move south towards the Mexican Coast. But British Columbia is determined to make the last day of our trip memorable. As we cruised up Johnstone Strait, hundreds of Pacific white-sided dolphins, were feeding. There were dolphins everywhere. We were completely surrounded, with dolphins leaping in all directions. The Island Wanderer has an exceptionally large wake with several diminishing waves on either side and each wave had a row of dolphins surfing side by side. After a kilometre, Steve turned the boat around and with the dolphins following and taking turns in our wake, we enjoyed the experience again. Before long we are outside Whalebone Cove, and approaching the dock.It's been a 1700 kilometre round trip and what a journey we have had - cruising through one of the earth's last great wildernesses -the temperate rainforest of BC. Now called the Great Bear Rainforest. It is so remote you can only get there by boat or floatplane and is one of the rarest forest types on the planet. No wonder, Melody and Steve have been so captivated that they return each year to film the amazing flora and fauna of the Great Bear Rainforest.