Friday, September 28, 2012

Squirrel Cove

We are back on Cortes Island, this time at Squirrel Cove which must be named for the flying squirrels that inhabit the forest. Here we were able to buy a few groceries and eat some yummy food from Flying Squirrel Take-out. Close to the anchorage, we took a great hike, dotted with gargantuan, old growth trees along the way, to Von Donop Inlet with hopes of catching a glimpse of a flying squirrel. No such luck. If you are brave enough you can come up the Von Donop Inlet in your boat, but at one point the passage is so narrow the tree branches on the shore scrape the boat as you pass through with a rock immediately to starboard. We are not that sort of brave so a hike was right up our alley. We were all in serious need of some uninhibited, bipedal, trail excercise at this point.

Back on Cortes Island, we just couldn't help but to call up Steve and Carol, who we had met at the Wildernest, to take them up on their offer to tie up to their dock. They own a peninsula on Windy Bay where they run the Tai Li Lodge, an upscale, rustic resort with secluded cabins, platform tents, and open-air solar showers, all with gorgeous views overlooking the Maine-esque, granite slabs that march down to the ocean. After we had our run of it for two days we headed on to Grace Harbor. It is such a beautiful piece of property, thanks for sharing it with us.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Prideaux Haven

After Isaac's birthday we entered Desolation Sound national park and anchored in Prideaux Haven. In June 1792, Captain Vancouver said  about Desolation Sound,  "This area afforded not a single prospect that was pleasing to the eye, the smallest recreation on shore, no animal nor vegetable food, excepting a very scanty proportion of those eatables already described, and of which the adjacent country was soon exhausted, after our arrival....whence the place obtained the name Desolation Sound; where our time would have passed infinitely more heavily, had it not been relieved by the agreeable society of our Spanish friends." The scenery here is absolutely stunning but I can understand Vancouver's point that the  land here is difficult. I had imagined loads of hiking everywhere, but if there isn't a trail, you aren't going anywhere because the shrubbery is so thick and the slopes are extremely steep. It's forbidding country.  Prideaux Haven is said to be the home of the Flea Village, which Captain Vancouver's men stumbled upon. They found an abandoned  native village up on top of a cliff accessible only by a set of stairs wide enough for one person with a huge maple tree for guards to watch over the entrance to the densely packed houses. There was a terrible stench within the village and they were soon attacked by viscious fleas forcing them to rapidly retreat to the water where they stripped naked and dove into the water, submerging their clothes thoroughly but the fleas still "leaped about frisky as ever." They drug their clothes behind the boat without any luck of evicting the vigorous pests. Only after boiling their clothes were they victorious. We hoped to look around for signs of the village but the vegetation was so dense, we quickly gave up. We did manage to get a few views over the cove, however, and we are excited to come back here when we have two kayaks so we can more easily explore the numerous islands and inlets in this anchorage.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Happy Birthday Isaac!

Isaac decided to spend his thirteenth birthday at Pendrel Sound where the water is fabled to be 80 degrees in August and September. It is standard practice in the Desolation Sound area that when anchored in a small, deep, rocky cove, you also secure your stern to the shore with a rope to prevent swinging, so Isaac and I paddled out in Blackberry and secured our very first stern tie. Back at the boat our thermometer read 68 degrees, much warmer than the other places we had visited, so we all swimsuited up and hopped in for a dip. It was so nice and refreshing. Afterward we sprawled out on our foredeck drying in the warm sun and playing a card game. Isaac awoke the following morning eager to find out if his birthday wish had come true. It was his lucky day, he received, Eclipse, the board game that he has been talking, thinking, and strategizing about for months now. We played it twice through the day and I still managed to slip out and go for another swim. After birthday candles and birthday treats, we went up on deck to check out the bioluminescence in the water which is crazy-bright in this big glacially carved sound. Fish and their paths glow as they swim through the water. Ripples grow in glowing circles outward into the dark. The boys and I paddled the kayak watching our bow wave glow and paddle marks swirl, leaving a glowing path behind us. For the grand finale I climbed into the water and treaded water with wide, sweeping movements. I am told that it was quite the sight and they had never seen anything so glow-y. When I climbed out of the water my skin sparkled and the boys said I looked like a mermaid. My swimsuit continued to sparkle even after I had taken it off and hung it up. Happy thirteenth birthday Isaac!

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Frances Bay to Wildernest

The mountains just keep getting bigger and bigger, steeper and steeper. Aaron desperately wanted to sail up Bute Inlet to see the biggest mountains that he had pinpointed on the map, but the channel is long, narrow, and dangerous, prone to wild, swirling winds that funnel down the steep slopes of the mountains. So we compromised on going to the mouth of the channel and inching in just a few miles before turning around and spending the night at Frances Bay. This country is very steep, very remote, feels very inaccessible, people are few and far between, and bears and wolves roam the steep slopes of the wilderness. After sailing in light winds the next day, we decided to tie up to a dock at the Wildernest just outside of Toba Inlet. It was here that we got the most spectacular views of mountains so far. We hiked up to a waterfall that serves as the water and power source for the owners of the Wildernest as well as its guests, and then on to a beautiful overlook. There were a few other guests docked here as well and we answered many questions about our boat. One man took so much interest that he gave us his phone number and invited us to tie up to his dock on Cortes Island if we pass through again. Maybe it's because its the off season and the crowds are gone, but people here are surprisingly warm and welcoming.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hitchhiking 101

Isaac read through the sailing guide for Desolation Sound and decided that he really wanted to go to Manson's Landing because it had an organic food co-op and a bookstore, so after Jason snorkeled in the freezing cold water (with much gasping from him and giggles from us) to check the hull for log damage, we headed out. Once there, we got our first set of lessons in deep water anchoring. Lesson  number one: it is harder to anchor in deep water. Lesson number two: you need a lot of chain to get the anchor to catch. Lesson number three: the chain is really heavy when hanging straight down. Lesson number four: I get really tired when I have to raise 200 feet of chain four times. After an hour of anchoring and re-anchoring, we finally met with success and  headed into shore to look for the bookstore, passing signs for a local Harvestfest along the way, only to find the store closed on account of Harvestfest. Luckily, the food co-op was still open so we went in and bought treats to help us make it back to the boat since it was already past dinner time. As we we paid, the cashier asked if we were going to Harvestfest. We weren't sure,  so she tried to convince us that we could just hitchhike to get there. Apparently, like in some horror movies, this is the preferred means of transportation for many people in Cortes Island, population 1,000. As we walked back to the boat, we were all thinking that an old fashioned country gathering with food harvested from a local, cooperative organic farm complete with live music sounded just too good to pass up. Too bad it was too far to walk. Just then, someone stopped and asked if we needed a ride. We asked if he was going to Harvestfest. Funny thing, he lives right next door to the farm, hop on in. Cue creepy music? We looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders, and hopped in (don't do this in the U.S. boys). This was our very first time hitchhiking. Our driver's name was Danny. He was incredibly nice as he answered our questions with his cool BC accent (accents this far north sound a wee bit Scottish). When we asked if we should worry about finding a ride back, he said that we wouldn't have a problem at all and if we did, we should just knock on his door and he would drive us back. Wow. At Harvestfest we settled down to a big picnic table with plates of warm piroghies and veggie chili surrounded by locals curious about the strangers who had just showed up. Everyone was very nice and we ended up making friends with a woman named Melanie who is an artist and a sailor from Barbados. After we had our fill of apple pie and pumpkin tarts we headed down the road in the dusk hoping we would find a ride. It didn't take long for a truck to stop. We piled in the truck bed and he dumped us a mile or so down the road. Our next ride was the captain of the ferry who insisted on bringing us down to our harbor even though it was out of his way. Along the way he chuckled about his day at work, his first mate, the party they were going to and how he had the best job in the world. He was a very jovial fellow. The community here was so warm and welcoming, it was fun and extremely interesting to get a view into it.

The following day we kayaked into shore and found the lagoon at the bay empty at low tide. I have never seen so many oysters or sand dollars in my life. Huge pools of water were black from layers of sand dollars inhabiting them. The boys spent hours exploring the tidal area, Aaron on foot and Isaac using a combination of foot and kayak, where he got to run the tidal rapids with Jason. We spent the afternoon moving the boat through a narrow channel with petroglyphs on the cliff walls, to Gorge Harbor where we passed through huge clouds of moon jellies. Coincidentally, we bumped into Melanie on the docks since she keeps her boat in Gorge Harbor. We made plans for her bring her family over to meet us later that evening. When they arrived the boys taught their daughter Amber how to play Hearts and she taught them how to play Spoons while we sat and talked with Melanie and Adam. They have had such amazing experiences. It was really fun to hear about them and get to know them better. Some of Adam's stories were terrifying sea adventures that made everything we've done sound tame in comparison. True adventurers those two are. As they departed, they invited us over to coffee at their partly finished houseboat, partly finished second houseboat, and sailboat that are all rafted together in the harbor. The following morning they showed us around their amazing project while the kids built origami boats in preparation for a boat race. Thank you for such wonderful hospitality and memorable experiences. We look forward to seeing you again next year.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Bittersweet Tale

Mitlenatch Island is called the Galapagos of BC. When we arrived there, we were greeted by hundreds of sea lions and seals sunning themselves on the rocks. We were mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the wildlife as we entered the tiny harbor. We anchored in a tiny rocky area in the middle of three islands. This was our first experience anchoring in a rock bottom and I was horrified as I felt the anchor drag and bounce and grind against the rock, taking several tries before the anchor caught. The boys asked if we were going to stay overnight as planned and I confidently replied "no" because I was positive that there was no way that the anchor was going to hold. I thought we would hang out for a couple of hours on the boat enjoying the "planet earth" scene we were sitting in the middle of. After a while, it seemed that the boat was staying in one place so we decided to row Rosebud into land where we hiked a few trails. Eventually Jason talked me into staying the night at Mitlenatch, hoping that the forecasted calm would stick (we knew that if it got windy this was NOT a safe place to be and we would have to pull up anchor in the middle of the night and find somewhere else to be). Nevertheless, the sea lions wooed me with their guttural star-wars-bar-scene noises and I was smitten with their big, blubbery ways so I gave in. We spent the evening with our new sea mammal friends seranading us and we settled into bed with calm, clear skies. You know how they say to do one thing that scares you every day....we decided to do something that scared us all through the dark, windy night. About 11:00 the wind picked up. We managed to get an hour of sleep before I was up at midnight checking to see if we were still where we were supposed to be and making declarations that we needed to start anchor watch. Jason can be a little difficult to convince of this in the middle of the night as he, like me, would rather be sleeping. After lying there, not sleeping, listening to the chain drag around on the sea floor for two hours, we became much more active in our checkings and Jason finally agreed that, yes, it was time for anchor watch, so he took the first shift while I laid in bed with Isaac, who is closer to the anchor, not sleeping. At 3:30, Jason frantically called inside for me declaring that Rosebud was getting away. I emerged just in time to watch Rosebud riding glowing waves of bioluminescence, through light fog, slipping away into the darkness. Jason thought we should pull up anchor and go after her, but even though I love Rosebud and didn't want to lose her, I liked the idea of heading out into the wind and chop of the Strait of Georgia in the middle of the night even less. We waffled back and forth for about five minutes. With the engine fired up and me about to pull up the anchor, Jason came forward and agreed that we had to let her go. At this point, I took up my watch, listening to the sea lions in the darkness, watching the stars and glowing waves as we swung to and fro on our slowly-slipping anchor, until just a sliver of the crescent moon came over the horizon followed a short while later by a lightening horizon. In the low light of the morning I was alarmed by how close we had moved to the rocks and how our depth was dropping with the tide. It took all my willpower to not wake up Jason. I waited, watching the arc of our swings and the depth meter, determining that once it dropped past a certain point, I would wake Jason up. I managed to let him sleep until almost 7:00 when my nerves couldn't handle it any more. As soon as he was out of bed we fired up the engine, pulled up anchor, and carefully maneuvered ourselves out into the channel. Once safely out in the strait, we unfurled the jib, cut the engine and quietly sailed, dinghy-less through the early morning light with warm cups of tea in our hands. All in all, it was a very memorable experience, but I hope not to repeat it too often.

We have a new, very experienced, sailing friend in Seattle who warned us that whenever you plan a trip to Desolation Sound you always plan a stop in Campbell River otherwise something will go wrong and you will need to stop there anyway. Not wanting to add unnecessary superstitions to our sailing lives we had not planned on stopping in Campbell River. After losing Rosebud, we had no choice go to Campbell River and to add a new superstition to our list. Once there, we went dinghy shopping and were very sad about the only, very white, very plastic choice. We couldn't bring ourselves to buy it and left the store in hopes of finding another solution. Over the course of the afternoon and many phone calls later, it hit us that now would be the perfect time to buy a kayak that can hold three people, something that we had already been contemplating. Jason located one at a nearby outdoor store and set out on foot. Later the owner of the shop was nice enough to deposit Jason and our new kayak at the marina. After we had all taken a test paddle in the kayak that Isaac fittingly named Blackberry, we hoisted her onto Marinero's kayak rack. Jason, at this point, called the Coast Guard to let them know that we had lost a dinghy so that they didn't launch a missing person search, to which they replied "Rosebud?" As it turns out they had a visual on her at that moment, twenty miles south of where she broke free and the Comox Volunteer Rescue Station was enroute to pick her up. She is now waiting for us to pick her up in Comox when we head south again. Yay Rosebud! We ended this much-too exciting day safely tied up to a dock at April Point, but not before we hit a big log entering the narrow channel to get there.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Tribune Bay

We managed to slip across the border into BC at Poet's Cove without any of the mistaken-identity hassles of the past thanks to the last border patrol officer putting a note into our file. After ten hours of travel, we spent the night in Nanaimo. The next day was spent finding a way to connect Jason to work while in Canada, giving us a very late start.  This forced a change in plans for our destination for the evening and altered the course of our trip. We landed in French Creek that night so we decided to take a more direct route the next day, opting to skip Pender Harbor and head to Tribune Bay where we could enjoy some land time instead. The reviews for Tribune Bay were average so we weren't expecting much, but it turned out so much better than we could have imagined. When we anchored, there was a sailboat with an old WWII seaplane, a Widgeon, tied behind it as if it were a dinghy. Later it took off right over our boat and then circled around to buzz low over the bay again, we all worried it was going to hit our mast. After rowing to shore we looked back at Marinero from the big, sandy beach and were surprised at how similar the water looked to the Carribean except there were big craggy mountains in the background. As we played on the beach we stumbled upon a huge, dragon rock which the boys heroically dueled with. Isaac decided that dueling with a dragon wasn't enough excitement for the day so he gave log-surfing a try. Here, sadly, is where his dryness ended as log-surfing is tricky and he went in....with a big splash....and the sound of laughter from his family ringing in his ears.

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Happy Birthday Aaron!

Aaron celebrated his 11th birthday on this trip and, as you can imagine, it involved big mountains and a week full of festivities. A couple of days before his birthday we sailed to Port Townsend where we rented a car, drove up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic Mountains and hiked to the top of the ridge of Mount Angeles for the big views that Aaron is always after. A few days later we met some good friends on the beach at Spencer Spit where they all played and played and played, building vast sand kingdoms and then leveling them to rubble with a relentless barrage of rocks. He chose to spend his birthday day in Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island so that he could hike and chuck rock after rock at the car of doom.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Back to Marinero

We spent two whole months at home enjoying the summer in Montana hiking, biking, playing with friends, gardening, and hitting the weekly farmer's market. At the end of August, with Montana skies dark with smoke, we left with stinging eyes and burning throats to Marinero and the clean, oxygen-rich air of Seattle. We spent the first week varnishing the toe-rail, getting to know Ballard better, taking friends out on the water, attending an outdoor movie night at the marina where we watched the daring adventure of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third as we tried not to be distracted by UFO's passing over head, and prepping for our big adventure north.

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