Port McNeil to Blunden Harbor:
For those of you who wonder what we do all day on a boat let me tell you how our day went. The plan was to rise at 3 am for a weather check prior to a 4 am departure to cross Cape Caution. 1:30 am found us in the engine room taking apart our newly installed water pump. Last evening Jeff found a pack of two gaskets in the new water pump box. At 1 am he awoke from a dead sleep worrying that there was not a gasket installed at the base of the water pump. In less than 30 minutes he had the pump apart to find that the factory had installed the gasket. The two in the box must have been spares. So it’s now 2 am and no sense going back to bed since we were planning on being up at three am to get the latest weather report. The new forecast is troublesome for our crossing. Winds are to pick up this afternoon to 20-30 knots. After checking weather conditions with a few more sources, we decide to postpone the crossing of Cape Caution. Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day. The Waggoner Cruising Group also decide to stay in port.
After a few hours sleep, we do enjoy a pleasant cruise across Queen Charlotte Strait to Blunden Harbor. Our path crosses Defiance, a Krogen 42. They too are heading to the Blunden Harbor anchorage. We also saw two humpbacks relaxing in the calm waters.
Blunden Harbor, a beautiful well sheltered anchorage, was at one time home to a thriving First Nation Village. Ashore we find giant logs from the remains of an old long house just up from the shell midden beach. Supposedly one of the bordering Islands is a burial grounds for the natives. J.R. on Defiance said he has seen coffins with human skeletal bones placed inside. We are definitely not going ashore here.
All of our efforts today were not in vain. We were rewarded with a beautiful anchorage and three large Dungeness crabs in the trap.
Total Miles Today: 31
Total Miles This Year: 496
Blunden Harbor to Fury Cove:
Today we will be crossing Cape Caution. A 4 am weather check confirms last nights decision that today would be the best day for crossing for quite a while as a cold front moves into the area latter this week. To reach Alaska there are two open ocean passages that must be approached with respect, Cape Caution and Dixon Entrance just below Ketchikan.
4:30 am finds us weaving our way out the rocky entrance of Blunden Harbor. Knowing we would be leaving in the dark, we laid a track yesterday when we came in. Defiance left just ahead of us. Working our way west on Queen Charlotte Strait, we have some two foot rollers. Not too bad. A few minutes later we get a call from Defiance that they are turning back due to a family emergency. We hope everything is ok for them.
As we near Queen Charlotte Sound, the rollers increase to about five feet on a ten second period. Rounding Cape Caution we stay about five miles offshore. The winds pick up as we round the cape. The seas are now about 8 foot on a ten second period. IT gently rides up and over the swells passing beneath her keel. Directly to our west the next landfall would be Japan. Four hours later it is a relief to finally reach Fitz Hugh Sound with Calvert Island blocking some the powerful ocean swells. This open passage felt different than ones we have done on the east coast. You have to respect the mighty force of the Pacific Ocean. Captain Vancouver picked a fitting name for Cape Caution. Our crossing today was a little uncomfortable but not dangerous. We are learning how to pick our weather for this crossing and got lucky today.
Our anchorage for the evening is Fury Cove, a beautiful cluster of islands just off the east side of Fitz Hugh Sound. After anchoring, Jeff test the chilly 50 degree waters to check our port stabilizer which is now off center by fifteen degrees. Everything looks good below with no kelp hanging over the fin. Earlier today while on auto pilot, the boat took an unexpected hard right turn for no reason. We now think this has something to do with the stabilizer. Perhaps the sensor slipped and needs adjusting. We will call the manufacturer whenever we get phone service.
Our friends, Wendy and Leigh on the 42 Krogen Forever Exploring, came into the anchorage a few hours later. Tonight we share this anchorage with twelve other boats who also crossed today. We kayak ashore to explore several of the white midden beaches made of crushed shell.
We are now about 300 Miles from Ketchikan.
Total Miles Today: 65
Total Miles This Year: 561
Fury Cove to Pruth Bay:
Continuing north up Fitz Hugh Sound our views of the surrounding mountains are obscured by pea soup fog. Our anchorage for today is Pruth Bay seven miles up Kwakshua Channel on the western side of Fitz Hugh Sound. At the head of the bay we anchor just off the beautiful Hakai Conservancy. Here they do longterm marine and terrestrial eco research. They welcome boaters to come ashore and use their free Wi-Fi and hike their well maintained trails to numerous beaches on the Pacific side. We have a great hike to the lookout, a four hundred foot promontory overlooking the Pacific Ocean and institute. Jeff enjoyed chatting with the resident helicopter pilot and is envious of his job.
Total Miles Today: 24
Total Miles This Year: 585
Pruth Bay to Ocean Falls:
It is another early start today for our sixty mile trip to Ocean Falls. We continue north for forty miles up Fitz Hugh Sound. This area of northern BC is very remote. The only access if by water or air. Travel is easy up this well protected sound with depths averaging twelve hundred feet. The waterway is almost five miles wide with densely forested mountains on both side. We see little signs of human habitation. The passenger ship Columbia passes just below Lama pass on her weekly run to Bellingham. Several Orcas were reported by two boats ahead of us. We keep our eyes out for them but none are seen today. There are several nice anchorages along today’s route which we bypass trying to get further north as soon as possible. Then we can relax and slow down. As we work our way up Cousins Inlet the sun breaks through the clouds and we have some stunning views of the snow speckled granite mountain tops against the bright blue sky.
Ocean Falls is now pretty much a Ghost Town with a population of 25 people swelling to 100 in the summer. Until the Crown Zellerbach mill closed in 1980, the town had a population of over 5000 people. It was at one time the second largest pulp mill on the coast. Once the mill closed, the town was abandoned.
One other boat is on the docks when we arrive. We have a tough time docking today with high winds and currents. These darn bull rails don’t help matters in getting the boat tied up. After paying our moorage (.50 a foot) at the self service community dock office, we take a walk up to the abandoned town of Ocean Falls. There is a massive hydroelectric dam that provides power to the town and also Bella Bella and Shearwater. It is a little erie walking past empty houses overgrown with vegetation and buildings with broken out windows and advanced decay. The doors are all padlocked. The hospital and hotel are 1950’s architecture. It is like time just stopped here. There are a handful of people working in town mainly on a massive barge and crane offloading pallets of equipment. They are putting all this stuff in a huge blue building surrounded by a barb wire chain link fence. It is rumored that a company is setting up a data mining center for crypto currency (bitcoin). Over a third of the electricity being generated here is being used for this venture. It will be interesting to see how this town progresses over the next year or two with this input of technology.
Total Miles Today: 60
Total Miles This Year: 645
Ocean Falls to Shearwater:
We are away from the docks this morning at 7 am on our way to Shearwater. We are hoping to have phone service there so that we can call TRAC about our stabilizer issue. Our trip today takes us through Gunboat Passage. Because this narrow waterway is littered with rocks and reefs, cruise ships and other large craft take Lama Passage. Lama Passage would add about twelve miles to our trip. We will be transiting at high tide so decide to give Gunboat a try. There are several trouble spots where we have to pay close attention to the current so as not to be pushed on the reefs. We weren’t really sure of what to expect after reading the guide books. This passage is actually quite nice as long as you pay attention to your course. We did get to see three black bears grazing on the shores.
Shearwater is a small marine complex and fishing lodge with one restaurant and a coffee shop. They also have a small grocery store and a nice marine store. A mechanic comes down to the boat this afternoon. After a call to TRAC for some guidance, he is able to adjust the sensor on our port stabilizer. The thought is that when the rod ends and bushings were changed this winter it was not tightened up enough and slipped out of place. Hopefully our problem is solved.
The weather for the next three days is not looking very good. They are calling for 40 knot winds out in Hectate Strait on Monday. We have one passage in Milbank Sound that is exposed to the open ocean. If we can get around that before the wind blows we should be ok on the protected inside passage. We will get an updated weather briefing tomorrow at 4 am before leaving.
Total Miles Today: 26
Total Miles This Year: 671