Sunday, August 31, 2014

Back in Friday Harbor

We arrived back in Friday harbor on the 8th August. It is good to be back here and see our friends again. Katya immediately arranged a sleep over with her friend Marina. Now the hard work begins in getting the boat ready to depart for San Francisco and onwards to Mexico. We also have to tidy up our land affairs, deal with storage, cars, post, bills, buy Katya’s 6th grade school curriculum and much more.

We arranged for the boat to be taken out of the water in Anacortes and have its Bottom painted with antifoul, which has not been done since we purchased the boat back in Feb 2011. I also have to try and get Jeeves, our autopilot, fixed as it is an essential system for heading offshore.

As we would be living onboard whilst the boat was “on the hard” in Anacortes we decided to take the car over so the morning of the 14th August Jude took the car on the ferry and I set off in thick fog for Anacortes. Katya was still asleep and unaware of the travelling.

Onward to Vancouver!

Lagoon Cove to Forward harbor

We were apprehensive about going back to Forward Harbor after our wonderful dog, Luda, was taken by a Mountain Lion (AKA Cougar) back in 2012. We had previously erected a memorial signpost there and wanted to see if it was still there. Sure enough I am pleased to say that it was and still in good condition. Being back there brought back the memories of that fateful day when Luda was taken. We watched other people on the beach walk their dogs and hoped they did not suffer the same fate.

We lingered in Forward harbor for a few days, enjoying the sunny weather before we headed on to the Octopus Islands, another one of our favorite anchorages. When we have been there in the past it has always been low season and we have nearly always been the only boat there. This time it was different – we counted 30 other boats but there is plenty of space for a hundred boats in the anchorage.

We swam in the sea and the following day we made the 1 hour hike to Newton Lake and swam in the beautiful clear warm freshwater. We lingered until late afternoon before heading back to the boat. The following day we visited the “Art Shack” on one of the small islands and left our own artistic contribution created by all of the Crew of Sarita.

Swimming in Newton Lake

The "Art Shack" Octopus Islands

Inside the "Art Shack" The Octopus Islands

Another early morning departure to catch slack water through the narrows and on to Herriot Bay to fill the water tanks and obtain some much needed provisions. We have not bought any food since leaving Prince Rupert and we are drastically low on many items, especially chocolate.
Gorge Harbor with Al Capone's yacht

After doing a small provision we headed out to Gorge Harbor where we hoped to meet up with Keith, Jenny and Justin on Lady J.

We stayed overnight in Gorge Harbor but Lady J did not turn up so we departed the following morning and headed over to Tenedos Bay in Desolation sound. We tried to hail Lady J on the way and another boater told they were still in Powell River.

We stern tied in Tenedos Bay in 120 feet of water, Jude and Maddie doing an excellent job in tying ashore without embarrassment. The water here is reportedly very warm so it was without delay that we decided to find out and boy was it great! The water was nearly 80 degrees so even Jude came in for a swim.

Stern tied in Tenedos Bay

I decided to take the dinghy for a run and was approached by what I thought was a mad boater in his Boston Whaler. He was coming right for me. Quick turn to port – he followed – turn to starboard – he followed. Damn! What is he doing?? Then the egg was on my face as it turned out to be Keith, Jenny, Justin and Justin’s brother Geoffrey from Lady J.      

Maddie taking Geoffrey for  ride
We spent the next couple of days swimming in the clear warm waters and generally mucking about. Keith and Jenny invited us over for a meal and we bought some Oysters over from the rocks near our boat. Keith grilled them on the BBQ and they were delicious.

We stopped off for a night in Pender Harbor, where we all had enormous ice creams and I mean enormous. It was pretty mad in Pender being the height of the summer season. We decided not to anchor in Garden bay and opted for more swing room outside. I sleep better that way.   

The long trip to Vancouver was uneventful but a beautiful sunny and warm day but little wind which was from behind so we motored all the way. We had expected a very busy harbor in Vancouver being the busiest weekend of the year and it sure was. We did however manage to find a spot to anchor in False creek, albeit in the main channel, but nobody moved us on.

Vancouver is the final destination for the girls who have now completed the full length of the Inside Passage from Juneau. It’s been wonderful to have them aboard and they added much to our adventures. Thanks. They now have a few days with some family in Vancouver before they depart for Mexico and their great South American adventures.

We stayed a few days in Vancouver visiting the Maritime Museum and of course the delights of Granville Market and walking around the wonderful city.

Sitka to Lagoon Cover

A morning high water slack through Peril strait also meant for an early departure from Sitka so we topped off the water tank and off we headed in the early morning drizzle, our destination being Appleton cove. Just as we were entering the cove I heard a rather muffled MAYDAY RELAY (relayed distress call) for Olympic Mist, Mike’s boat. We only heard that it was in distress and did not know where but given the transmission quality it was some distance away. We spent the night wondering how Mike was and if he managed to get a rescue sorted out.

We set off in the morning heading for Ell Cove on the east side of Baranof Island. As we left Peril strait and entered Chatham sound we picked up an unlikely cell phone signal and took the opportunity to call the coastguard to find out the status of Mike’s distress call. They informed us that he was towed into Craig having suffered a damaged propeller, which Mike later told us that it was done by a crew member running over a log a few minutes after he left his watch. All was well.   

The fishing boats were out in force as we neared Ell Cove and we wondered if we could get into the tiny cove but as luck was with us we had the place to ourselves. We took the dinghy and Kayaks down and the girls went exploring and Jude and I went fishing. We caught a few good sized rockfish but missed a large Halibut which snapped the line on the rod, probably just as well as it would not have been much fun trying to get a large halibut in the dinghy.

A 37 foot Nordic tug came into the cove with 3 young men on board and there was sudden interest from the girls which was later dowsed by the fact that they were considered too old for any further flirtatious actions. Jude and I however invited them over for drinks and supper on our way back from fishing and we spent a fun evening chatting to them.

Beautiful Takatz
Our next destination, Takatz, is one I have been anticipating since the beginning of this trip primarily as it is one of the favorite haunts of one of our friends in Friday Harbor, Keith. It certainly lived up to all that had been portrayed. We explored the inlet, its islands and river seeing natural springs bubbling up from the sea bed and riding the river rapids down in the kayaks.

Kayaking up the river in Takatz
 We dinghied over to two other boats for drinks, Gillian and David on Carousel and Jim and Peg on Nightfall. It turned out that Jim and Peg had also lost their dog to a Cougar in Blunden Harbor in 2009. We explored a small island which seemed to have some sort of abandoned hunter’s camp.

Much needed hot spring bath in Warm Springs
We had all been looking forward to spending some time at Warm Springs, long soaks in the natural pools and even more extensive ones in the hot tubs conveniently provided and the top of the dock. It’s always a pleasure to come back here and we always meet more interesting people. We met up again with Rob and Tania on Highland Mary, having first met them in Taku harbor, and the girls got the tour of their boat which they found far more spacious and luxurious than Sarita.

We decided to skip Red Bluff bay as our grizzly bear quota had been filled especially with the girls encounter and instead decided to negotiate the fabled “Rocky Pass”, an intricate and supposedly challenging narrow and shallow body of water linking Frederick sound with Sumner strait, which incidentally would save us quite a few hours of motoring. We made our way through a group of islands and decided to stop to try and catch a halibut which we did, bringing it to the surface and into the net but our luck shattered at that point and the decent sized fish snapped the line with one flick of its tail and shot out of the net along with quite e few expletives from my mouth. It’s just not meant to be. It reality we should have used the gaff and not the net.

We anchored at the top of Rocky pass waiting for slack water the following morning to make the transit. Whilst waiting a went kayaking to see if I could find some Geodes which we had been told existed in the area but it turned out to be quite a big area with quite a few bears so foraging for rocks on the beach on my own was not probably a good idea.

Humpback whales bubble feeding outside Warm Springs

Sailing down Sumner strait
In the morning we nervously departed and entered the pass. Guide books say this should only be done with some local knowledge and stories of groundings were vividly described. In reality with modern technology such as GPS chartplotters and better markings the pass is quite easy to transit. We did it at near high water slack and had about 3 knots of current against us as we went through Devil’s elbow. Safely outside in Sumner strait the sun came out and enough wind enabled us to get the sails up and make a steady 4-5 knots towards Exchange cove for the night.

A beautiful dawn sky greeted us the next morning as we made our way to Meyer’s Chuck, a small SE Alaskan community and a free dock to tie up to.

Dawn departure from Exchange cove

Our prayers for Salmon were answered soon after we arrived when Sterling, a young Alaskan pulled up at the side of our boat with a load of salmon. He asked me if I wanted one and I said sure, what do you want in return? Cash was not king here but half a bottle of vodka secured us a king salmon, some Pink salmon and a guided tour of the area whilst Sterling carried his automatic 12 gauge bear gun. Guns and Vodka make great bed fellows?? Sterling was very kind and showed us some of the local sites, taking us out to a house on a small islet with an amazing view of the Strait. We watched as a group of yachts sailed into the harbor in sunshine.
Burnt out tree in Myer's Chuck
Chillin on the deck
Meyer's Chuck

Meyer's Chuck

Having fuelled up, stocked up and done some laundry in Ketchikan we departed on one of the longer passages on this journey. The forecast was for 20-25 knots from the NW, i.e behind us but it did not eventuate until we were only a couple of hours from Prince Rupert. Having checked into customs we dropped the anchor again in Pillsbury cove and had a peaceful night before we went to town the next day to stock up on products that we were not allowed to carry across the border.
Sailing across Dixon entrance 

Sailing across Dixon entrance 

The girls explored the delights of Prince Rupert whilst Jude and I did the shopping. I was also very pleased to find a second hand lens in replacement for the one I drowned last year. It was a fraction of the price of a new one.

Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht club

Prince Rupert

Check out the size of that floating debris!
Departing in the morning with the flood tide taking us up Granville channel the wind God blew on us and we raised the sails and sailed most of the way to Lowe Inlet. with 25-30 knots behind along with the current we made good time although it was a challenge to keep the sails set correctly in a channel. Its great to turn the engines off and sail downwind. Much better that heading into 25-30 knots of wind like one boat we saw going the other way.

We dropped the prawn trap on entering Lowe inlet and then the anchor in the same spot as we had on the way up. From the anchorage we could see Verney falls and I could see Salmon leaping so I decided to go and see if the salmon run had started. We all went and watched salmon leaping all around the boat, one nearly jumping into the dinghy.

The girls doing morning yoga exercise 
The following day we departed for Bottleneck inlet making more headway south to drop the girls off in Vancouver on the 4th August. We were joined in the anchorage shortly after our arrival my “Spirit of Freedom”. I dinghied over to say hello and have a chat. It turned out that they know Kirk and Kris on Linger Longer.

Bottleneck inlet

Troup Narrows was our next destination which lived up to our expectations of delivering some crab and with water warm enough I went for my first swim of the season. There were two motor boats in the anchorage but with plenty of space no generators could be heard.

Ocean falls
Ocean Falls is a place we intended to go to last year but we never made it. As it turns out it was a perfect destination for everybody to explore. Being the old site of a town that once held 5,000 people and now pretty much abandoned it provided many places to explore including an old hotel, church and high school all in a pretty bad state of repair. Some of the old houses could be entered and they had the feeling of a place suddenly abandoned by a plague or other natural disaster.

Abandoned buildings of Ocean falls

Jude and I are now turning our minds to Mexico, our “intended” winter destination which requires travelling south down the Pacific West Coast of the US. There is quite a bit to do in preparation and we will have to get the boat hauled out to have its bottom painted. The list of things to do is growing the more we think about it. The idea of spending winter in warmer climes is appealing but at the same time we have grown to love the Pacific North West and will no doubt miss it just as much.

Pruth harbor beach
Pruth Harbor offers everybody the chance to stretch their legs on beautiful sandy beaches, which are a rarity in the PNW. The girls even donned their swimsuits and went swimming in the sea whilst Jude, Katya and I went for a walk along with another lady we had met in Ocean falls. On the way back to the boat we were given a large fillet of Ling Cod which came from a 76lb fish that had just been caught. Ling Cod is or favorite fish we have decided and great for fish and chips! Jude cooked it up and it was devoured in silence by all onboard.

We crossed Queen Charlotte sound in calm conditions, again the weather predictions of favorable sailing winds failing to appear but at least it was calm and not too rock and rolly. Blunden harbor was our destination and this is where the people we met in Takatz lost their dog. We saw the commemorative sign they had created and this made us think of Luda, our dog, who we lost in Forward Harbor two year ago. We explored the old Native American settlement and its midden but failed to find any of the trading beads we had heard other finding.

Lagoon cove is probably our favorite rural marina in the Broughton islands not only because it offers very friendly service but also that it has the opportunity to walk on a number of trails. The evening pot luck run by the marina allows you to chat to other boaters and eat the delicious prawns provided by the marina. We stayed for two days and on the second day our friend Kirk and Kris joined us and we caught up on the adventures we had both been having since we had last seen each other.