A day off in the Ralston Islands set us up for one of the best days of paddling on the trip. Both of us were well rested and did our best to avoid thinking about the food shortfall the day off in the wilderness might cause.
Setting off in thick fog had Lauri and making a game of staying "found" as we glided past Islands and rocks beautifully muted by the ultra low clouds. Around Angry Island we made a few short, blind crossings to make our way to Petrel Channel. I love my compass.
The first part of the channel was clear of fog... at least the part we were paddling in. As the channel narrowed we were prepared for some turbulence from the ebbing tide, but there was very little water movement until we made the big turn west... then the fun began. The channel started to do some serious ebbing at speeds we could only sprint against for a short time. So Lauri took the lead like a pro and did some serious eddy hopping to take advantage of the current very close to shore going our direction. Pure fun... game on.
Rounding a tight bend just inches from the vertical rock shoreline, Lauri surprised some sun bathing seals and they almost landed on her kayak as they dove for the safety of the water. All I heard was Lauri scream... I thought she startled a bear, but her nervous laughter let me know it wasn't that serious. Easy for me to say.
Type one fun all the way to camp!
The next day we headed further up the Petrel channel and headed for Oona River on Porcher Island. We were hoping that a B&B we'd read about would have room for us for a night. As we pulled up to the dock, we were greeted by Lutz, the harbor master and long time Oona River resident. After helping us get the loaded kayaks on the dock he made on phone call and we had our accommodations and transportation arranged. I don't think 5 minutes had passed and we were set.
We stayed at Lemon Acres, the home of Jan and Mike Lemon. Jan was raised in the historic logging, fishing and boat building community. While Mike grew up in Prince Rupert and came to Oona to join his bride over 50 years ago.
Conversation came easy as we feasted on Jan's fabulous meals of fresh seafood, homemade pies and biscuits. With Mike making a living at sea and the experience of building his own 50' fishing trawler and Jan's fish hatchery and second generation Oona experience their stories and perspectives were priceless. We were not the least bit disappointed when the following days weather would keep us off the water and in Jan and Mike's care.
Oona River has a rich history of growth and contraction and Jan is the perfect ambassador to share stories of the people and industry that shaped this little community. These are self reliant people. I guess that happens when the nearest grocery store is 25 miles away... by boat... across water known for its cantankerous moods. You can feel how the community of 25 ( plus or minus, depending on who you ask) supports each other and works together... and enjoys each other's company.
The community has a tradition called "CoffeeBreak" that has people gathering at various homes in the town for coffee at 10AM and 3PM. Jan, hosted the first of the three coffee breaks we were part of, with Winnie, the matriarch of Oona and Lutz and his wife hosting the other two. I can't begin to share how warm and wonderful these gatherings felt as we met more of the residents and travelers like ourselves.
When we first arrived at the docks in Oona, Lutz shared that there was another couple traveling from Skagway to Bellingham (the reverse of our route) in a sailing/rowing 18ft Dory. We got to meet Max and Addie at CoffeeBreak and we soon found ourselves making plans to swap stories, review routs, campsite locations that evening. Kindered spirits for sure.
Max and Addie gave us great suggestions for marinas to select, forestry cabins to visit, camping locations and shared the highlights of their trip so far. Addie also gave Lauri a gift of advice about "dealing" with the upcoming Dixon Entrance and the inevitable ocean swell of the Pacific as we paddle away from the protection of channels and islands and the wave fetch grows to, well, Asia? Addie talked about the gentle, rolling vertical movement the ocean would have with favorable weather. This really helped hearing it from a woman who had just completed this challenging section of our route.
The following day Lauri and I walked Max and Addie through our route and did our best to share possible camp locations that would fit their unique requirements as a result of their boats weight. They couldn't hoist their dory up into the woods or carry it up a beach the way Lauri and I could with the kayaks.
It was very therapeutic to have the day off and enjoy conversation with another couple that understood exactly what physical and emotional challenges we'd been through.
Jan also took the 4 of us up to the fish hatchery to show and tell how she and her team of interns helped re populate and bring back the salmon to the Oona River and how they are expanding on their success. Hearing about survival rate, genetic diversification, best logging practices to protect rivers and her efforts over the years was as enlightening as it was amazing.
Early the following morning, Jan gave us a ride to the harbor and we said our goodbyes. Of course Lutz was there to offer any help we might need and gives us advice about when the tide would be high enough for us to navigate out the harbor. (Oona is tidal locked at low tide)
Onna is a special place with special people and we can't wait to host CoffeBreak if any of you make it to Chicago.
Denny Island... or Shearwater
The campsite challenge game adds anxiety to each and every day. Many of the sites do not work at high, high tide and the full moon was upon us as we made our way to Shearwater. Nothing worse than being tired after a long day and finding out your planned site just won't work... paddle on... not knowing if the next site will be any better.
The last site just 8 miles before Shearwater required my Leatherman and some serious vegetation modifications to set the tent up above high tide. Why does it rain when you have the crapy camp site? No worries , we broke out the Frisbee for some beach time agility training.
Shearwater was early the next morning as we glided by Old and new Bella Bella with some tidal help. And for the first time ever I turned to channel 66A and hailed the harbormaster about "docking" our kayaks.
They allowed us to pull them up on dock and park them there... cool! This became our staging area for the next two days... a very short walk from our hotel and all the facilities.
As we checked in with the Harbor Master, Jim and Lynda were checking in Albedos and soon we'd accepted an invitation for drinks on their yacht and dinner at the local eatery... the only restaurant at Shearwater.
Lauri and I had one simultaneous thought... Laundry! Shower... must smell reasonable....
Shower, check, laundry, check. Late lunch, check. We must pre eat, before dinner, so we don't embarrass ourselves with the quantity of food we order if we don't pre-eat.
The next action item was to determine when the box (charts primarily)being sent to us would arrive. We had landed several days early due to the water taxi and mail to Shearwater is notoriously slow.
Alternatively, we looked into buying the charts and supplies we needed to see if that was even an option.
The Marine store was out of every chart needed, but Monday the barge was coming and charts had been on order.
Nothing to worry about except how to coverup the campfire burns in my "only" pants I have on this trip. Good thing Shearwater is very casual.
Drinks and dinner went great with easy conversation with experienced maritime travelers. Jim and Lynda have logged over 35k miles up and down the left coast. Jim was able to answer all my inane questions about the area and piloting a "big" boy boat on the Inside Passage.
As it turned out we successfully found the charts as the marine store was inventorying their latest barge re supply. Luck was with us, but they only had 250,000 scale chart for most of our route to Prince Rupert. Lots of area covered, but VERY little detail.
The office above the store let us slice, dice and laminate the charts... so in a few hours on Monday afternoon we were ready to depart.
Only one thing left, go see Jim's drone video of our departure at Fury Island and get a tour of Albedos. All I can say is wow... what a boat. Built for serious ocean travel in the height of comfort. The color screen lifted out of the back of the dinning sitting area and soon we were enjoying the unique perspective that only a drone can provide.
We said our good byes and agreed we'd look for each other at Prince Rupert.
We were just getting the boats ready to slide off the Shearwater dock as Albedos left her slip at 6AM. The early bird misses the wind... hopefully.
The short paddle on Sunday to Shearwater and the hectic Monday in Port still had us ready to paddle early on Tuesday. We got to our destination, Roar island, drama free, but decided to press on Dowager Island to shorten the following very long day. Sigh... then the rains came.
The island campsite off the SW tip of Dowager was not easily found, but we eventually found the hidden gem. The rain tarp came out and was was quickly becoming our favorite piece of gear. I had also purchased an additional tarp in Shearwater and we put that to use too. No mater how hard we tried almost everything had serious moisture content.
The following day we would experience the Inside passage as frequently described. Wet, check. Ocean swell, check. Fog... double check. It seemed to be lifting as we left our camp site heading north towards Keith Pt. on Dowager. This would give us the shortest crossing to Swindle Island crossing the transition from Milbanke Sound to Finlayson Channel... hah! It was a pretty short crossing and wind and the ocean swell wrapping around Price island was pushing us fast. About 10 min in to the planned 50 min crossing the visibility dropped so that we could just see about 3 miles. The destination was visible, but to be safe Lauri and I went to an exercise pace to shorten up the time in the channel. 10 min later the fog obscures everything. Paddling in a fogged whiteout, with 3-4 ft refracting waves now bouncing off our destination island. Let's just say I'm out of the running for husband of the year.
The crossing was well within our skills, but was all new to us and likely not an experience we will seek out again. I should not have admitted that I thought it was a cool experience. The afternoon was saved by a Momma Humpback teaching tail flip tricks to her offspring. Whale saves marriage.
A little help past the cape
So after leaving Duval point and saying our good byes to Dave, Lisa and their kids... and their kids (Yup, three generations were there running the fishing lodge. How cool is that? ) we loaded our gear on George's Sea Legend Water Taxi and started our 2.5 hour, high speed blast around the infamous Cape Caution.
I was intending to update the blog in Shearwater, but the internet connection was just too slow. Lots to share, but I thought I start by sharing what we have learned so far. Whew... it's been a lot.
If at the end of the day your wife brushes her teeth with sunscreen... and isn't sure... and didn't mind too much... consider less miles the following day.
Wind is a four letter word.
Wind trumps tidal current most of the time... Ocean swell seems to trump them both, all the time.
Male plumbing is a constant source of envy when your female partner is wearing a dry suit.
We are pretty sure that sleep deprivation is just part of the Inside Passage experience. I still wonder how long I've been paddling with my charts upside down.
I was afraid of the rain ( see first blog post) I was right.... we are very moist.
There is a good reason captains of 50 ft yachts look so rested and relaxed. Those thing are floating, Luxo Condos.
If you lick your lips while paddling on the ocean you will crave potato chips when you reach Port.
It's a pretty good day if you get to build a fort at the end of it with your best friend.
You just can't believe the number of times we heard "Yeah, we cashed it all in a bought this boat.... we start on xxxx coast xxxx years ago."
Gortex does breath but holds the stink in... nice.
People that hang out by the water seem happy and ready to be friends at a moments notice.
Want to meet cool people at a marina? Go do your laundry. How big is their boat... watch them fold their sheets. I'm guessing queen size sheets = 40' plus. If they wash all colors together... and aren't too concerned about clean clothes touching the floor.... likely kayakers.
You see a lot more trawler type boats on the Inside Passage. It was explained to us that a sailboat's living space is mostly below the waterline and when the water is 50 degrees... sailboats are colder and clammy. Hmmmm who knew?
Always go to port for the arrival of the fresh food. Shearwater gets new veggies on Mondays
It's about the people
Each day we are amazed at the warm and wonderful people we have met on this crazy trip. From the first night fisherman that shared his live shrimp with us to the water angels we met in Kelsey Bay that helped us get our Mojo back after a cold night huddled on a log.
After Eric transported us to Kelsey Bay we learned his helper, Randy, the self appointed "Mayor" of Kelsey Bay also managed the 6 place RV park and kayaker camp site we'd store the boats at while Lauri and I got some rest at the Mt. H'Kasum Lodge. We felt secure with Randy's watchful eye on our boats nestled at the retainer wall of the RV parks owners house. The owner carved out a tent site, fire pit (complete with match ready fire pyramid) and picnic table for wayward kayakers. Very nice.
Julie, the owner of the Mt. H'Kasum Lodge, picked us up and shuttled us to the spacious family style lodge where we met Violet (3), Raven(5)... Julie's kids, two dogs, two cats and Julie's Mother in Law, Helena. We felt at home immediately and were soon offered the family car to run errands and rebuild our food cache. We also enjoyed hearing Julie's stories of her 4 month bike trip from Oregon to Belize.
With laundry completed, sleep deprivation staved off and full bear vaults of food we were ready to get back to the boats Thursday night. Angel Julie gave us a tour of the town of Sayward and dropped us off at the boats. Violet and Raven didn't look so happy as we said our thanks and goodbyes.
Randy and all the other RV people said their goodbyes and good luck!
Friday, was a brutal 10 hour day on the water... against a steady wind our speed averaged slightly less then 2 Kts... arghhh. Not an ideal first day back, but with no camping at a shorter distance... we had no choices. Fortunately, there was one Oceanside camping spot at Naka Creek after long slog and we were soon chatting with all the neighbors when the call went out that a humpback was swimming in the channel.
Nothing unites a campground like a humpback. We soon heard stories about the Orcas using the gravel beach to "rub" themselves on and all the whale, seal, dolphin activity when the salmon run. We also learned of a kayak couple we "MUST" meet up with at Prince Rupert. Crazy nice people.
Today after our third Bear sighting of the trip we got to talking with another bear observer and he grew up in Little Current, Manitulan Island, Ontario, Canada. He was a dock hand and his father ran the marina there. There is a 100% chance he and his father have assisted my parents in their 30 plus sailing trips that always included multiple stops at Little Current. Small world.
So it's almost July 4th... and Lauri and knew this would be the hardest time away from family and friends... first time missing the family 4th... in, well... I can't remember if it has ever happened. Tomorrow, with luck, we will be in Port Hardy and planning the next leg of this odyssey, but we will be thinking of, and missing all of you.
Enjoy the 4th and Happy Birthday America and to my Big Brother!
Denny and Lauri