Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Princess Louisa to Bowen Island

We reluctantly said goodbye to Princess Louisa Inlet and started south. We spent the first night in Garden Bay in Pender Harbor on the dock of a couple we had met in Princess Louisa. Nice couple, many thanks for your generosity! We refilled our water, stocked up on food and refueled before leaving Pender. Our next stop was Buccaneer Bay where we all romped and played on a gorgeous white sand beach. In the secluded cove where we were anchored we watched a momma deer coax her baby deer into the water to swim from island to island. I almost had a heart attack as I watched and was speculating in my brain how I could save a drowning baby deer if she needed it. Luckily my ill-fitted services were not needed. I can't say I knew that deer ocean-swam before seeing it for myself.

After that it was on to Gambier Island where we had Mount Artaban in our sights. After surviving the steepness of the Trapper's Cabin hike everything else has seemed like small potatoes. So as we hiked along and the trail suddenly reared up to unreasonable steepness, I silently berated myself for suffering so. This wasn't Trapper's Cabin. I was just tired. It couldn't possibly be that hard. As it turns out, it was that hard and all of us were suffering in our fatigued states. I'm glad I wasn't the only one. We were all still exhausted from all of our play at Princess Louisa. We found out after we drug ourselves back to the boat that we gained 2000 feet in a mile and a half. Ouch.

Exhausted, I headed to the foredeck to raise the anchor and we were off to Snug Cove on Bowen Island. We arrived starving and stumbled off the boat straight to a restaurant. I noticed during our stay on Bowen Island that as the weeks on the boat wear on, I find myself feeling more and more like Captain Jack Sparrow when I step out onto land. My eyes can't focus and the world around me spins. The ground seems to pitch and heave below my feet and I have a hard time walking a straight line, my brain can't think. This was my dazed mental state during our stay on Bowen Island. Or maybe I was just exhausted. We spent three nights there catching up on school, work, blogposts and rest.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Squeak Attack

We acquired two adorable stowaways when we were tied up to the dock at the head of Princess Louisa Inlet. It began when Isaac was laying in bed staring up at the hatch in his ceiling. He saw what he thought was a rat skitter across. The next morning Pika sat, staring at a classically-shaped mouse hole in the the cupboard beneath the sink. Her vigil couldn't even be broken by breakfast. I felt pretty sure at this point that whatever had scurried across Isaac's hatch had found its way into the boat. A search of the cupboard turned up nothing but we took note of the hole that led down to the bilge. We checked the bilge but turned up nothing. We noticed mouse poo up on deck and we all speculated how it could make its way into the boat. The following night was spent on a mooring ball at MacDonald Island. While laying in bed reading we heard rustling in the salon. Jason got up and shined a flashlight into the galley. There, frozen in the light beam, sat a tiny mouse. He came back and reported he had good news and bad news. Bad news, we had a mouse. Good news, she was the cutest mouse he had ever seen. We devised a series of plans of entrapment that all got discarded when Isaac came to report that he just heard the mouse skitter overhead on deck. How on earth had she made it up on deck so quickly? So Jason headed up top with a headlamp and an empty plastic spinach container we had pulled out of the recycling. I pointed out many times that there was no way he was going to be able to capture a mouse with a lousy spinach container. He spotted her up top but as he moved toward her she vanished into the chain locker. He poured several buckets of water down there to either wash her out or scare her up. Meanwhile Pika, who we discovered is an amazing mouse locator, listened and stared at a spot in the corner of our bed. On the other side of that wall is the cockpit. Several minutes later Jason spotted the mouse in the cockpit, made a mighty lunge and captured the mouse under the spinach container....unbelievable. How does someone spot a mouse in the dark and manage to capture it? I don't know. I quickly grabbed a piece of cardboard from the recycling, we slid it under the spinach container and the mouse (along with an almond for a snack) and taped it up. At this point it was 11pm and we were all huddled around her squeaking with delight at how cute she was and remarking that she was distinctly not wet (was there another one?). She is definitely the cutest mouse we have ever seen but a pet mouse on a boat was not an option. We threw on our life jackets climbed into a kayak and paddled to shore. We debated if we should just set her free on the dock (since that seemed be her natural habitat) or bring her to the grass. The grass seemed nicer to us so Jason brought her up. When he set her free she immediately ran to the dock and clung to its vertical edge, Spider-Man style. As we paddled away under the half moon we swear we heard her let out the saddest squeaks we have ever heard. We knew that could only mean one thing...we had separated her from her mate. Oh boy.

Back at the boat we settled back into bed when something skittered over the boys again. It was Mr. Mouse. Jason hopped out of bed, grabbed the spinach container and headed up top...this time, without a headlamp. I guess he felt he needed to step it up a notch because maybe we weren't thoroughly impressed with his last performance? I must admit that I was secretly thinking there was no way someone could possibly catch two mice in the dark with a spinach container. Mr. Mouse was much friskier and acrobatic than Mrs. Mouse and he skittered about wildly on deck. Down below, we would each call out as he scurried over our heads. I heard him sprint down the side deck to the cockpit. I called out and Jason came running by and I heard him lunge. I am thankful he didn't go into the water. At this point he's shouting "Headlamp! Headlamp!" I grabbed it as quickly as I could and shined it into the cockpit. We had Mr. Mouse cornered. He jumped about wildly, trying to make it up onto a seat that would lead him to freedom but Jason clamped the spinach container down before he made it. No. Way. How does someone manage to catch two mice in the dark with only a spinach container? I still don't know. But I think we may have discovered Jason's super power. We repeated the previous steps to seal the container but did notice that Mr. Mouse was not nearly as cute as Mrs. Mouse and he did seem perhaps a little wet and disheveled. We took a second moonlight, midnight paddle to shore to reunite Mr. Mouse with Mrs. Mouse so they could live happily ever after, not on our boat.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Following the Footsteps of Capi

The Curve of Time by M. Wylie Blanchett (Capi) is our constant companion on our excursions up the BC coast. In the 1920's Capi spent summers on her 24 foot boat, Caprice, with her five kids (and sometimes a dog) exploring the waters of  BC. We love reading about the places we are exploring and seeing them through her eyes and we love following her wake through these waterways. Her chapter on Princess Louisa was fresh in our brains and we spent time trying to figure out where she had anchored. On the Trapper's Cabin hike we could imagine following her and her brood up the mountain as we walked on the same skid road she had described in her book. We devoted our last day at Princess Louisa looking for the waterfall pools they had bathed in. We met success when we pulled our kayaks up onto a little beach where a waterfall tumbled out. We pushed our way through the bushes and found water rushing down granite. There we spotted what they called Big Wash, Big Rinse and Little Rinse where Blanchett and her family had bathed and washed their clothes. The water was running too fast and high so we couldn't climb in, but climbing higher we found some small warm-water pools where Aaron and Pika took a bath and I rinsed my hair with fresh water. It was a glorious spot and Aaron declared that it was paradise and this is where he wants to spend his birthday in the fall. We stayed and played as long as our hungry tummies allowed and then reluctantly climbed back into the kayaks to paddle back to the boat. During our paddle we watched a dozen curious seals watch us and schools of thousands of tiny fish below. We watched an eagle hunt fish along with our seal friends. Did I already mention that this place is paradise?

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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Trapper's Cabin Hike

In Princess Louisa we stuck to a strict regimen of paddling, hiking and swimming. It was great for the soul. After a couple of nights on the mooring ball at MacDonald Island we moved up to the park dock at the end of the inlet where the infamous Trapper's Cabin trailhead is located. As we walked down the dock headed for the trailhead, fellow boaters scoffed at our flimsy footwear (flip-flops and barefoot shoes) and wished us good luck, doubt dripping from their voices. I have to admit this is one of the steepest hikes we have ever been on. It gains 1800 feet in two miles and reminded us of New England hikes we had been on, except on steroids. We spent a lot of time grabbing tangled roots, hoisting ourselves up the trail. Definitely not a trail you want to do if you're not fit and agile. We were rewarded for our efforts with a spectacular waterfall next to the remains of the trapper's cabin. We managed to complete the trail, from start to finish, in two hours and jaws dropped when we stepped back onto the dock. Time for a swim.

We staged our swimming excursions off of the kayaks in pockets close to shore where the water was a little warmer. We lashed the kayaks together and used them as a swimming and diving platform. Afterwards we rowed our still-attached kayaks, native long-boat style, back to our boat.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Arrival at Princess Louisa

Princess Louisa is a narrow fjord hemmed in by 8,000 foot, snow-covered mountains rising straight from the water. Located forty miles inland, it is a branch off of the also very mountainous Jervis Inlet. The nearest roads are forty miles away so it is only accessible by boat or sea plane. We left early from Hotham Sound so we could enter the infamous Malibu Rapids at slack water. Weaving our way through Jervis Inlet we gawked at the mountains towering above us and took some time to watch a black bear scrounging for food along the shore. We arrived at Malibu Rapids with time to spare and took our place in line. When the rapids calmed the boats lined up and one by one headed into the narrow rapids where water can run as fast as 8 1/2 knots. The boat in front of us was apprehensive and slowed to a stop after he entered which forced us to swing around in a circle to allow him time to get the nerve up to go through. Isaac watched the bow for rocks as we snaked through the rapids. After safely making it through we relaxed and continued watching the mountains pass by in the warm sunshine.

Princess Louisa has three mooring options. Halfway up the inlet, at MacDonald Island, there are mooring buoys. At the head of the inlet, you can anchor on a shallow shelf close to shore and stern tie or anchor free with the waterfall's current pushing you away from the rocks, or you can tie up to the park dock. Upon our arrival we decided to delay our excitement to see the head of inlet and tied up to a mooring ball at MacDonald Island. Instead of motoring in to see the end, we decided on kayaks for our mode of transportation so we could soak up all the grandeur slowly and without the racket of the engine. We were surprised at how warm it was and hopped in for a swim immediately after securing the boat. The water temp was a balmy 64.5 degrees and, in between gasps, it felt so good. Somehow our shrieks inspired our neighbors to take a dip. Thoroughly refreshed, we hopped into the kayaks and set out for the head of the inlet. This was the perfect way to view this stunning landscape for the first time. I can't tell you how tiny it made me feel. The scale of the mountains, with dozens of waterfalls, falling straight into the ocean, was boggling. Words and photos can't do it justice.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Princess Louisa Inlet

I don't know how many days it's been since I've had a shower and I can't say that I really care. Maybe I should mention that I don't know what day it is either. We have no cell. No internet. We are in gorgeous Princess Louisa Inlet with glorious weather. In short, it's paradise. I've grown accustomed to the sounds of eagles and guillemots that surround me. I feel tiny in this landscape. Like so many other people, I will try to describe it, but I will fail miserably. It's just something you have to experience.

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Hotham Sound

Tiny Harmony Islands are nestled in Hotham Sound just off Jervis Inlet. We spent two nights there, alone, underneath the towering mountains above us. It reminded us a bit Prideaux Haven up in Desolation Sound. The ocean bottom is rocky and it took a couple of tries to get our anchor set before we ran a stern line to land. It's always a bit unnerving to listen to the chain scrape across the rocks, never knowing if the anchor is dragging with it. We spent our time there exploring in our kayaks. No hikes for us here as the land was a bit impenetrable, though we did go ashore and found a perfect bed of moss for an attempted group nap. We paddled around the islands and watched fish swim under us as we checked out all of the tidal life along the cliff edges. Later we paddled over to the base of a huge waterfall (1400 feet) that tumbled down into the ocean. Back at the boat we spent ample amounts of time lounging on the foredeck in the sunshine.

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Victoria to Smugglers Cove

After Grandpa's departure we spent one more night in Victoria before setting out on the rest of our adventure. As we motored out of the harbor we saw race boats still trickling in from the Swiftsure Race. We raised sails for a while only to have the wind peter out. Grandpa's seat looked empty. After I dropped the sails I went below to make lunch. When I came back up on deck I noticed that Pika, who'd been in her bright pink and green Piglet sweater, was nowhere to be seen. I called to Jason up on the foredeck to see if she was with him. Nope. He thought she was below with me. Nope. We tried not to panic as I dove below to search and Jason scoured the decks. I looked under the table and the boys' bunks. In my panic, I even tore through Isaac's bedding. She was nowhere to be found below. At this point Jason had stopped the boat and we were both having the same thought of how in God's green earth are we gonna find a chihuahua in that big blue ocean. Distraught, I climbed the companionway stairs to see how Jason's search was going, only to find Pika, still in her Piglet sweater, climbing out of the rope cubby all blinky-eyed and groggy, clearly wondering why Jason had been desperately calling for her. She must have missed Grandpa's lap and climbed into the cozy spot to feel safe. Silly little dog...she scared the pants off of us. After lots of pettings, we relaxed and looked around. We looked at San Juan Island and it felt strange to be looking at these familiar places from the Canadian side of the border instead of the other way around. We made a quick stop at D'arcy Island which Isaac has already so aptly described. Late in the afternoon, after passing the familiar profiles of Stuart Island and Turn Point we pulled into Selby Cove at Prevost Island and anchored between a fishing boat and a half-sunken dock. The lush, green field on shore was super picturesque....the sinking dock, not-so-much. We had grand plans to paddle into shore and hike over to James Bay where we had been the week before but dinner over-ruled and the following morning we left early so we could make it to Active Pass at slack water. After safely making it through the pass we entered our nemesis, the Strait of Georgia. After having endured two whippings from this body of water we are always a bit apprehensive upon entering. To our delight the forecast held true and we had wind behind us. We raised sails and enjoyed a relaxing sail downwind across the strait. As we neared the other side, the wind died down and Jason, knowing I would just roll my eyes and make a snarky remark about the gennaker immersing itself in the water while we bobbed up and down (since our previous experiences have been as such), bypassed me and coerced Isaac into helping him put up the gennaker. After about forty five minutes they successfully had the gennaker rigged, in the air (not in the water) and pulling the boat....I never thought I'd see the day. Jason eventually talked me into a jibe with it, which we successfully executed after only mild tangling. We soon lost all wind as we came close to our destination and had to drop all the sails. We tied up to a dock in Snug Cove and found a restaurant for dinner. Afterwards we hiked to the top of a viewpoint before retiring for the night. We spent the next morning catching up on work, school and laundry. In the afternoon we hiked through a trail-filled park to a lake. For dinner we grabbed a couple of pizzas to go and took our seats in the bleachers at the softball field. We watched a local game as we ate our pizza in the sinking sun. The next day we set out for Smugglers Cove. The strait was full of waves but no wind. The boys took turns riding on the bow as the boat bucked up and down through the waves. After spending the night at Smugglers Cove we, you may have already guessed it, went for a hike before pushing north again with Princess Louisa Inlet in our sights.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Haunted D'Arcy Island

Check out Isaac's story about his experience on haunted D'Arcy Island.

D’Arcy Island

Before I dive into my gripping narrative of our trip to D’Arcy Island, I feel I should give a bit of background story. As Mark Twain would say, if he was me, and lived in 2014, ‘No point getting into the story then going backwards. That’s gotta be the worst writing technique ever invented since the invention of government marketing.’ In a manner of speaking, at least. Anyway, D’Arcy Island is a former leper colony, mainly for Chinese lepers. They would contract the disease, be shipped out to this island, and then they would live an isolated life with a lot of other Chinese lepers, the only contact with the outer world being the shipments of supplies and coffins and the occasional journalist. So, this is a rather morbid place. You get that feeling after reading its history. But there is a little more. Supposedly, it’s haunted. At this point, you may be getting a vivid impression of ghosts and bogey-men and probably start to get a little freaked out while at the same time telling yourself that there is definitely no way it could be in any way possible, though it might be possible if someone had played with hexaflexagons or something similar causing vorpal spacetime influences across multiple dimensions. But unless that extremely unlikely case has occurred and also assuming that anything I said made any scientific sense at all, there is no way it could be haunted. So we all say. Regardless, we went ahead and read the haunted island story in the Waggoner’s Guide. It was not like a normal ghost story with the headless Victorian ladies (cough, cough Chinese lepers) moaning in the trees. No, this was something altogether more conceivable and thus, more frightening, in its own way. And do remember, this story comes from a sailing couple, and everyone knows that sailing couples are more or less grounded in reality when sober. Basically, they dinghied into the island, and, after tying up the dinghy, they headed up onto the firm, lush soil of D’Arcy Island. As they walked around, admiring the greenery, and searching for the foundations of old buildings, they were struck by the silence. Since Bob and Debby are the names of more than fifty percent of all sailing couples, we will call this couple Bob and Debby. One of them, either Bob or Debby, take your pick, says, ‘Where are all the birds?’ Now, first you must understand that when I mean silence, I don’t mean ‘The absence of sound,’ this silence was heavy, and crushing, and one was glad to hear the slightest noise, even if it was the noise of you screaming as you rushed towards the beach, overwhelmed by the pure creepy silence of it all. So Bob or Debby says, ‘Where are all the birds?’ Birds are common on the islands. You’re always hearing them. And all they had heard were wasps. Almost immediately after this question was asked bird calls suddenly started up. That, you must understand, is decidedly creepy. Especially because they stopped a little while later. So, our average sailing couple, Bob and Debby, move on and come to the foundations of another building. Debby goes ahead to the foundations while Bob stops to take photos or re-tie his shoe or something similar. Then he looks around at where Debby has gone and sees a ditch running around the perimeter of the foundations and he thinks to himself, ‘I wonder if water used to flow there?’ and almost immediately afterwards he hears running water. So he tells Debby, who can also hear the water, that he was going to go look for it. Debby stays back at the foundations while Bob forges his way into a bright green meadow. He continues on into the meadow when suddenly, the water noises stop. Puzzled, Bob makes his way back to Debby, who says that she can’t hear it anymore either. Creepy.
Strange, right? Now, you can see why we headed to this island, with exposed anchorage, for just an hour before continuing on. We never make lunch stops like that, except at Friday Harbor. But of course, we had to visit the haunted island. So we did. Mom was baking bread, and Aaron didn’t really want to go, so it ended up being just Dad and I in the landing party. And Pika of course. We can’t forget the chihuahua. She played a key part in the adventures of the hour. So anyway, we loaded into the kayak, and kayaked into shore. We tied up to some drift wood while Mom shouted something that sounds like ‘Pika Beagle’, then we headed up to the signs and the outhouse. I’m feeling rather relieved at this point. Outhouses seem so civil and not haunted. Maybe the island wasn’t haunted after all. Then I saw the deer. It was a normal deer, and it was quiet. I looked away for a moment. It disappeared without a sound. That was normal deer behavior, of course, but it completely freaked me out, since I was expecting creepy things to happen. Later, Dad said he saw it bound off into the bog. Of course, he could have told that to me right then, when I remarked on it, but oh, no, he has to wait until we’re kayaking back. Thanks a lot, Dad. Anyway, we’re heading deeper into the island. One thing that strikes us is the complete, total greenness of it all. Green moss carpeting the ground, not even allowing the slightest twig to stay on top. Green trees, bent over with what looked like a tree form of leprosy. There were no bird calls. Except for when there was. But that was rare. And overlaying all the green and not-birdiness was a constant buzzing from many, many wasps. Freaky. Wasps get on my nerves anyway, but when they’re the only sound besides me and Dad and Pika’s bell, it gets freaky. I was starting to get seriously freaked out as the branches of low hanging trees scraped their way through my hair, like the caressing hands of the dead, and branches caught my legs and tripped me, as if the wood itself was resentful of our presence. My brain, of course, was having a wonderful time making this all up at the time, and the impressions remained later on in my memories. But there was something about that island. The absence of bird calls – I once saw a bird moving about as if he was making chirping noises, but making no sound at all – and that constant buzzing, and the bent forms of the trees, the total greenery… I’ve never seen anywhere, in all of our travels, as green as D’Arcy Island. Stumps caught my eye, and looked like they were trying to skulk around behind me as my brain tried to work itself into a frenzy of fearful imagination. I tried to keep a hold on it, but Pika’s reaction to the island was unsettling. When dogs get nervous for no apparent reason, you start to feel nervous too. True, Pika gets nervous at anything, but this was different. She loves walking on land, but she refused to walk on D’Arcy, and kept looking longingly towards the boat. But when we were on a beach, she walked just fine. She also would occasionally start wiggling in my arms, as if she wanted down, but then she would stop, apparently changing her mind. She was definitely freaked out. And of course, the big pit that looked like a dug-up grave was also unsettling. I don’t think I need to give details of where exactly we walked; I think I highlighted the best and coolest parts and the general feeling.
This is D’Arcy Island. Go there for your fix of creepiness. Indian villages had a fair share of it in the early ‘20s, but now they’ve mostly lost it due to degeneration or visitors. But D’Arcy island… Ah, D’Arcy Island is rarely visited. People will stay there one night, if that, and then never come back. Nothing like a quarantine island to make things creepy.