Friday, August 14, 2015

Friendly Cove is Friendly

This is going to sound cheesy, but Friendly Cove definitely lives up to its name. Rich with history, it has been continuously inhabited by the Mowachaht/Muchalaht people for the last 4,000 years and was the first place Europeans touched ground in BC when Captain Cook stopped here to repair his damaged ships in 1778. This lovely spot once housed 1500 First Nations people in 20 long houses. We were happy to tie up to the dock here after a couple of weeks of solitude in more remote country further north. It felt nice to step back into "civilization" here with its five or so inhabitants.

We socialized with the folks across the dock who were waiting for a documentary film crew to join them. As experienced sailors who have sailed the paths described in the logs of Captain Vancouver and Charles Darwin, they were hired to transport a film crew along the path of famed marine biologist Ed Rickets. They spent years sailing in Peru where they met Doug Tompkins, the founder of North Face. He invited them to his house by giving them its lat-long coordinates expecting they'd never be able to find him, but, they did. He was very surprised and greeted them with great hospitality when they sailed into his domain one day.

The following morning Jason started a conversation with a fisherman who lives there. The fisherman showed him how to succeed at salmon fishing and gave him some line and lures for us to drag behind our boat. Jason asked if he could pay him for the equipment to which he replied, "You don't need to, I just like to help people." Jason gave him a little cash anyway and then we headed out for the day.

We explored the church originally built in the 1880's. It burnt to the ground in the 1950's and was rebuilt in 1957 with stain glass windows donated by the Spanish government in remembrance of the 1792 peace negotiations between England's Captain Vancouver and Spain's Captain Quadra. Here we learned about the history of Friendly Cove and of the Whalers Shrine, an ancient site of purification rituals where 16 human skulls, 88 carved human figures and 4 carved whales were found. It was reported to have great powers but all contents were stolen (purchased in shady circumstances) in the mid-1920's and taken to a New York museum where they currently collect dust in the basement. The tribe is working on retrieving the shrine and returning it to its proper home.

We then walked through the forest past an old graveyard filled with Christian crosses to a freshwater lake where we went for a swim. Even Pika swam, though she didn't really have a choice since we plunked her in the water away from shore. While sunning ourselves afterwards, Aaron and I became entranced by all of the round polished rocks on the shore. They were so smooth that they looked like they had been through a rock polisher. Eventually we tore ourselves away from the lake and headed to the beach. We were delighted to find that the beach was entirely made up of these polished rocks in all different sizes and colors. Apparently in the 1700's there was a tidal wave that swept rocks from the beach over the hill and deposited them in the lake. We spent hours on the beach filling our pockets with precious pebbles, rock climbing on the sea-stacks and giving each other rock massages. As we left the beach we startled a couple of guys who had just checked into one of the ramshackle rental cabins off the beach. They were the film crew our dock mates had spoken of and had just flown in from LA. They were totally freaked out about being in such a remote location and were so thankful to see other human beings. It was hilarious to us how different our points of view were. We had just re-entered civilization, and they felt completely isolated and on the edge of the world.

Next stop was the lighthouse where we had a fascinating conversation with the lighthouse keepers. We asked if it got lonely out there. They said in the summer, not-so-much, but in the winter they don't ever see anyone except for the helicopter pilot that drops them supplies every five weeks. They said that the cove goes totally National Geographic in the winter. They have the herring hatches and then the cove fills as everything comes to feed on all the herring...orcas, sea lions, seals, sea otters, whales, etc. We told them about how we had seen three sunfish (and possibly a basking shark?) on our last passage to which they replied that the warming of the water is bringing in all kinds of new fish. A couple of years ago there was an invasion of humboldt squid. People were totally freaked out because they were attacking boats. One fisherman they know had his little aluminum fishing boat completely surrounded and attacked and he thought he was going to die. Come winter time they had hundreds of squid enter the cove and die. Needless to say, it smelled abominably bad. They used a crane to haul some of them up onto the dock where they took photos of the six-foot monsters. They are still using remnants of the squid for bait.

When got back to the boat, we found a bag of food sitting in the cockpit. In surprise I rummaged through the bag and found ziplocks filled with smoked salmon, halibut, shrimp, four carrots and a beet. The fisherman we met in the morning had left us a very generous gift. We were so surprised and super grateful. Our freezer was fully stocked again, a major relief to the person who is constantly worried about where we'll find food next.

The next day we headed up inlet to Moutcha Bay to top off our water tanks. It was uber-hot (90+ degrees) and we spent the day alternately sweating and jumping into the 78 degree water. The water was super floaty so we could just lounge around for long periods of time without getting tired or cold. It felt really, really weird to be experiencing such tropical bliss in this part of the world. We found out later that it was the highest temperatures ever recorded, for any day, for this area.

While tied up at Moutcha with calm weather, we took the opportunity to change our headsail. The tack on our jib had developed a small tear in it and we no longer trusted it to hold. The high winds from our crazed sail had dramatically increased the tear so we dropped the jib and replaced it with our genoa, though we had to swim three times to cool down before the job was done.

After a night at Moutcha we headed back down inlet where we tried out our genoa for the very first time. We were beating into weird, swirly, gusty winds and we discovered right away that we were not fans of the bigger surface area the genoa carries at this wind angle. We had a couple of gusts of 25+ knots which buried the kayak into the water and made me use unlady-like words.

After a brief overnight at St. Gertrudis, we made a quick hop back to Friendly Cove where we would continue to wait out the high winds that were raging offshore. We happily repeated our activities from our previous stay but added a trip to see an old fallen totem. Buried deep in a thicket of blackberries, it was so amazing to see a real totem, gorgeous and magical. When it fell the Royal British Columbia Museum wanted to saw it apart and move it their museum. The tribe declined, believing it is the way of things to let it return to Mother Nature.

Click here for photos.

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