When we left Prince Rupert there was a big fat high sitting in the NE Pacific. Gale warnings had been issued for the offshore areas but we were still following the inland route. We had a stiff northerly breeze as we headed south down the Grenville Channel so we were finally able to get the head sail up. We zipped along at over 8kts, it was glorious! Our first port of call was the hot springs at Bishops Bay. A wooden bathhouse has been constructed over the springs and is decorated with memorabilia of various boats that have passed through. As we soaked in the warm water we didn’t spot any souvenirs from anyone we knew but when we left, we hung up an inscribed coconut (from Hawaii) to record Distant Drummer’s passing.
The islands and passageways in BC are even more of a jigsaw than those of Alaska. We were about 40NM inland and as far eastward as we had yet been, not far from a town named Kittimat. This is one of the sites along the BC coast where the Canadian government plans to locate an LNG plant. It’s strange to think that in a few years’ time LNG tankers will be steaming through these pristine waterways. Is it realistic to believe that their noise and wake won’t disturb the wildlife and their exhaust and bilge water won’t pollute the environment? What a shame “progress” has to contaminate one of the few remaining wilderness areas in the world.
Our next stop was Butedale, the site of an old cannery which operated from 1911-1967. The only person living there now is Corey Lindsay, the caretaker, who showed us around the dilapidated buildings and explained the uses of the industrial machinery which is now overgrown with weeds. The roof of the one remaining bunk house has fallen in but it is possible to enter the old cook house and see the range and the long wooden tables where hundreds of workers were fed, it has such a poignant atmosphere. In the power house which straddles the creek two water powered generators are preserved. This was one of fifty canneries dotted along the coast of BC which represented “progress” in their day. Now it is gradually falling down and slipping into the sea, nature is taking it back. I wonder what the LNG plants will look like a hundred years from now.
While at Butedale we walked up to the lake in the valley above the settlement to a fishing hole where Corey had told us we could catch cut-throat trout. The end of the lake is jammed with huge logs 1-2m in diameter and often more than 30m long and these had to be scrambled over to get to the fishing spot at the centre of the log jam. We were a bit tentative at first but we quickly got the hang of balancing on the logs and soon were leaping about like lumberjacks. We didn’t catch any fish (as usual) but had a great time trying!
As long as the salmon are running it is still bear season and we were very keen to see a “spirit” bear, which is a mutation of a black bear with a particular gene which makes its fur white. They are common in the islands in this area and we had heard that they were often seen at the Canoona River. We anchored Distant Drummer at the entrance to Khutze Inlet and drove across to the river mouth in the dingy in the pouring rain. We found the trail which the locals had cut along the bank and we followed it up the creek beside waterfalls and deep pools. Despite the weather it was a magical walk. We saw a black bear but no white bears and after four hours we returned to the boat completely sodden.
The rain continued for five days but once we arrived in Shearwater it brightened up a little. Shearwater was established as a seaplane base during World War II and is now a privately owned settlement. We spent a couple of days tied up at the dock while we topped up with water and fresh produce. At every opportunity when we have shore power I plug in the dehumidifier to try to reduce the damp and avoid the mould which can be problematic in this cold wet climate. Shearwater also boasts a pub so we enjoyed getting off the boat for a meal and a couple of glasses of wine.
Now we are in Pruthe Bay (about 40NM south of Shearwater) and waiting for a good weather window to cross Queen Charlotte Sound and head down the wild west coast of Vancouver Island. In the inland waterways of BC we have to keep a sharp lookout for logs which are easy enough to spot and avoid when the water is calm but are more difficult to see if the water is choppy and are impossible to see at night. Hopefully they will diminish and disappear as we get further offshore but we will be keeping our night time sailing to a minimum.
Ciao for now