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September 12, 2004
"There is more to life than increasing its speed." GANDHI
Of all the systems aboard this boat the anchor remains a peculiar quasi-scientific configuration of cast iron and hardened steel that functions with varying degrees of certainty. The problem is that it disappears, and you can’t see it do its job as it hopefully - wedges itself in the harbor bottom. I compute all factors such as water depth at high tide, adding the height of the bow roller from the water’s surface, note the type of harbor bottom material, figure in current effect, sight a range abeam the boat and back down on the rode (slowly at first), attach a snubber and secure the latch on the windlass. The anchor held last night. There should be an empirical solution to anchor design refined over the couple-hundred years of yachting. There isn’t. Recently, an engineer working on methods for anchoring huge offshore oilrigs suggested an alteration in the anchoring technique for small boats. I thought he knew what he was talking about, but amongst yachties there was the usual suspicion of something new and some legitimate questioning … and that ended it. I know his idea won’t appear in the next edition of Chapman’s. I recall my good friend Allan who tied his vessel to a piece of strong-looking 5/8 inch line that he found floating in Half Moon Bay Harbor. He pulled up on the line a couple of times, and when the line resisted, he felt it was strong enough. He attached his boat to it and swung around that “mooring” all night. He slept well. The next morning he pulled harder and up came a crab pot that had silted into the mud. What fumbling we do works most of the time, and the other situations - anchoring in a hurricane, anchoring in very deep water, anchoring in a crowded harbor, kedging off the mud, etc. I guess, are things the skipper believes won’t happen to him often enough to worry about. Some tests and some more printed blather convinced me that the Spade anchor was good. This morning with some effort I broke loose our shovel shaped, unique, Tunisian made Spade anchor from the muddy bottom of Blunden Harbor. I secured it on deck, and went aft to steer Love of Liberty on a zigzag course around a couple of rock ledges to exit this perfect bay.
We enter Queen Charlotte Straight before a blurred yellow sun hidden behind a swirl of Northwest-gray overcast. There’s no drizzle and no fog, just a 15-knot wind that kicks up a steep chop. The boat moves easily along our new southerly course. Our trip north has peaked, reached its crescendo, and that somehow compounds our depression about leaving the Northwest. Still, the cockpit enclosure keeps us warm, there’s hot coffee in the pedestal holder, the hard chart stays dry and the GPS has been programmed with waypoints for today’s course south and down the coast. It will be an easy day; all that remains is to steer the programmed course direction on the instruments. After a few hours we exit the straight and pass inside the Numas Islands, re-entering the Broughton Archipelago. We pass familiar forests, cliffs, mountain peaks and coves en-route to Sullivan Bay for reprovisioning. Unique Sullivan Bay where there are floating stores and homes all interconnected by floating walkways. The walkways are named like streets in a town. There are intersections and signs that point to the grocery store, the liquor store, the restaurant and the fuel dock. Also attached is a community of floating homes, each with a skiff or a cruising boat moored alongside. One home has a helicopter pad and a helicopter; another has a 75-foot motoryacht. We spend the rainy night dockside, after loading up with food, fuel and water. Ahead is our very last stop in the Broughton Archipelago: Lagoon Cove.
In one day we arrive at Lagoon Cove in bright sunshine. We’ve been here before and say hello to Bill. He’s the congenial owner, but doesn’t remember us because hundreds and hundreds of boats pass through here every summer. When “the sun’s under the yardarm” as he says, join everyone else up on the boat shop deck for evening drinks and hors d'oeuvres. Everyone brings something good to eat, marinated salmon, smoked,stuffed mushrooms, an unusual type of cheese, stuffed eggs. Bill contributes a huge bowl of freshly cooked prawns that he caught at some prodigious, unmarked prawning spot - that only he knows about. At dark, a group of us gather at the back knoll and are seated around a campfire. We again hear Bill’s bear story.
The cedar log fire burns, and there’s a feint outline of the surrounding mountain peaks. Down the hill the still lagoon looks dark. Only a few lanterns glow in the boat cabins. We’re quiet when Bill begins by holding up a large dried bone, a huge femur from a very large animal. I imagine this bone supported something that weighed several hundred pounds - and it’s not human. I heard an unseen something rustling in the forest trees and an owl hoots. The children are thinking of Big Foot, Sasquatch or maybe Tsonoqua. Bill handed the bone to me and began his story.
Two young caretakers that were to help Bill operate his near quiescent Lagoon Cove marina quit their job. “Because. ” as they said, “… it was ‘too stressful’ there in the summer.” “Too much going on.” they whined. Meanwhile, two kayakers arrived and asked to camp at the cove. They were big double kayaks as Bill described them. “You know the kind, …” Bill said, “… with the one in front paddling and the one in back grinning.” Bill’s a generous person, and he told them, “You can stay and camp behind my house, for free.” Later in the day Bill’s wife was on the house’s back step crying.
What’s wrong?” he asked Jean.
“The girl kayaker was badly sunburned.” Jean said. “She’s not going anywhere for the next two nights with that burn, and she’s not going to camp in a tent.” So, Bill had a full house.
The two men appreciated the help and asked Bill if there’s anything they can do.
Jokingly, Bill said, “You can go to ‘Exercise Station Two’. (A woodpile out back with a maul and a splitter.)
So, they did, and they split all the wood.
They were back, “What can we do?”
“Nothing, it’s OK now.”
“No, what can we do?”
“OK. OK. Take some machetes and clear the trail through the forest walk, the trail for the visitors to hike.”
They did and were back in a few hours. “Hey, we saw a sleeping bear on the trail.”
“Yeah. A sleeping bear.”
Bill hikes to the site and sure enough there’s a bear in the trail. A dead bear, very skinny. They roll him over and determine that he must have had died from disease.
Bill thinks, “ It won’t be long before that thing turns ripe. What to do?”
He says to the two kayakers, “Get in my skiff and go down the lagoon and get Mason, who likes bears, dead or alive. He has stuffed bears at his place and knows all about bears. He’ll know what to do.”
In a few hours two skiffs appear, one with Mason. He’s got rubber elbow-length gloves on and is ready to take care of things.
Mason goes up the trail to the bear and says, “I don’t want THAT bear.”
Bill suggests, “Let’s put a rope on him and tow him way down to the end of the lagoon. Tie him to a tree there and let the eagles and fish take care of the carcass. That’ll get rid of it.”
At the time there were about twenty-five guest boats in Lagoon Cove. Mason and Bill get a small skiff and they tow the bear a few feet behind the skiff past the visiting boats.
“Hey! What’cha doin?” one boater curiously called out.
“We’re towing a bear.”
“We always tow bears.”
“No! Really now, why ‘ya towing a bear?”
“We’re teaching him to water ski. He’s been up on two.”
They tow the bear to the end of the lagoon, and tie him to a tree with a rope.
A year later Jim, who is a long time local scrounger, is searching the shoreline for “valuables”. He finds things about the beach areas, machinery parts from old logging camps, even valuable orphan logs. He sees the bear’s fur and bones at the end of the lagoon.He comes back to Bill. “Hey, there’s a bear down at the end of the lagoon, … tied to a tree … by the neck. Heck Bill, from the looks he must have committed suicide.”
Bill took the huge bone, hammered the femur on his other hand, and said, “A person CAN live out here TOO long.”
After three days we depart Lagoon Cove carefully transiting narrow, shallow Chatham Channel by aligning the range markers. We soon enter Johnstone Straight on course for Port Neville. You can’t wave goodbye to Bill because he’s always somewhere else figuring how to moor incoming guest boats. He stacks them in as he walks up and down the dock with his handheld VHF radio, giving mooring advice. He rafts off boats, sometimes three deep. Some cruisers avoid Lagoon Cove because of the crowding, but for me that’s the draw. Everything else up here is so un-crowded that I like the big group. There are lots of boats to look at and many people to talk to. Yachts 25 feet to 125 feet cruise past The Blow Hole, around Minstrel Island then around Perley Island to just show up at Lagoon cove … and Bill doesn’t turn anyone away.
Underway at 6.5 knots we’re in Johnstone Straight where I’d like to see a 12-knot northwesterly with a flood tide and a chance to do some sailing for once. It’s sunny and almost calm. We motor and reach our halfway point, Port Neville. This is not a “port” in the vernacular; there’s no settlement, no stores, no fuel dock, no water, no provisioning. There’s a few houses scattered amongst the thick forest and some clear-cut logging being done farther inside this six-mile deep inlet. We moor to the float, hike up the steep ramp and down a long dock to meet Lorna, the postmistress and wharfinger. There’s three other cruising boats moored, so she invites us all to a potluck dessert party at her family’s old house.
If your contact with animals is limited to petting the dog or feeding the cat or cleaning the bird’s cage visit Port Neville. On a bluff Lorna and daughter Erica live in a simple cottage that’s also the post office. The mail goes out by floatplane on Wednesdays. If you forward your mail, she’ll hold it there for you. Her family has lived there since 1891, and she told me she’d like to keep the homestead. She has been forced to log the back of the property to raise funds to pay taxes, maintain the family house and otherwise keep ownership of the place. The government won’t maintain the pier and float anymore. They offered it to Lorna for $1, but she refused knowing it’s too expensive for her to maintain. Boats only stop in the summer, and there’s little income for all the work. She invites boaters to tie up, but collects no fees. I paid her anyhow.
At dinner, there’s good company and a full table. Throughout this backwater area I have met good people. I have yet to see anyone with a pierced tongue, multiple nose rings, tattoos down both arms, red and green hair or dressed in Goth or gangster clothing. Kids don’t have cell phones and they don’t hang out in the ‘hood’. Sure, I have met some rude people but nobody has been threatening. Daughter Erica is polite, conversant and offers to take us on a hike to the back of the property. Last month a grizzly bear had swum the opening to this side of Port Neville and was then seen roaming about Lorna’s house. A yearling black bear was seen scavenging along the beach and a cougar had come down the dock ramp to drag off a fisherman’s coat from a boat. “So, keep your tame cats inside your boat.” Lorna said and advised against hiking. At dinner I sat near David, a naturalist whose wife was the local veterinarian. Earlier in the summer he said he was seated in a chair outdoors with a small dog sleeping by his side. A cougar came out of the forest, attacked the small dog, bit its head - immediately killing it - and dragged it off to the woods. Even so, Lorna says there are chickens out back and tame deer roam about, and somehow they fend for themselves. Undaunted, we hiked alone about a mile outback staying in the open in the clear-cut forest. We made it up the hill to the grandparent’s apple orchard and saw nothing menacing.
That evening, I got a glimpse of a cruise ship making it’s way up Johnstone Straight. Behind the huge windows of the ship’s heated upper lounge must have been rubbernecking trippers. I thought I could see the ship’s naturalist lecturing on this environment:
“On the cover of your pamphlet is a picture of a wolf and a bear. You’d be lucky to see one. There were at least thirty different subspecies of wolf, but most have become extinct. Wolves in North America are mostly found in Alaska and Canada, however they are now almost impossible to find...”
The next morning we cast off, entered Johnstone Straight setting our course for Loughborough Inlet. Underway, we monitor the distress channel on the VHF radio. It’s designated for emergencies only, but it also serves as a contact frequency for chatter amongst vessels. Besides the summer cruisers, there’s a community of salmon, codfish, crab and prawn fishermen up here all listening on the same frequency. The names of their boats and call sighs can be strange and humorous. A short call with your boat’s name and the name of the boat you wish to contact is permitted on this “emergency” channel. Today I logged some calls. Ninety percent sound like this:
Lazy Daze, Lazy Daze this is Sea Spirit or
Serenity, Serenity this is vessel Osprey
But, then there’s:
Final Approach, Final Approach, calling Holy Moses.
Special Agent, Special Agent, this is Chained Up
Coaster, Coaster this is The Fossil comin' against ‘ya.
Gumbo Ya-Ya this is The Lucky Sperm
TyeMeUp, TyeMeUp this is Little Beaver
Holding On, Holding On, Holding On this is The Wet Dream.
Live out here, be out here and you will be deprived of the ‘benefits’ of urban living and ‘government’. That can be very good. We enter bright sunshine in a small remote bay on the west side of Loughborough Inlet, still well inside remote backwater territory. Ellen and I secure “Love of Liberty” to the inside of an old loggers’ float. The surface of the bay is calm and flat, perfectly reflecting the verdant forest and mountains. You tend to stare at any man made structure out here wondering just why the hell somebody would build their house there. I turned, stepped off the boat, adjusted the mooring lines and noticed a sign at my back: “Overnight fee $20”. Some enterprising soul has a business going out here. I launched the dinghy and powered across the serene bay to the only structure, that cabin, to pay my moorage. In a few minutes I arrived, shut down the motor and stepped to a long float. There was a well-made dock and a shed-like structure. Behind this, on the shore, was the shingled shingled cabin, partially hidden in the thicket of trees. There’s nobody around, so I secured the dinghy and wandered about. Inside the shed is a boat slip with a sturdy aluminum workboat. Outside at the end of the float is moored an old, 1950’s era wooden sailboat with an odd, added-on cedar shingled roof structure covering the length of its deck. The cover had been built over the boat, sort of a roof added above the deck. There’s a sooty chimney extending from inside the boat’s cabin, out through the cabin deck and thence through the shingled roof cover. This is not a sea going vessel, but I assumed someone could live in it. It’s locked up. Back inside the main structure there’s canned food, a couple of freezers, and an array of homesteader’s gear piled from ceiling to floor. Fastened to the overhead joists are prawn traps and crab traps. Silently, Dane appears wearing jeans, a heavy shirt and a wide brimmed hat. He’s tall, probably over six feet. We shake hands. He’s very easy going, and I sense he’d make a good friend. He speaks slowly and says we can stay at the log float across the bay for $20 a night. I paid him $40 and commented that this place wasn’t mentioned in the cruising guides.
“Because … “ Dane answered softly, “… my wife didn’t want the word to get out. That might bring a lot of people in here … and that was bad.”
He’d been living here for thirty years. I asked about taking the dinghy ashore on the far side and hiking inland.
Speaking very slowly again and maintaining eye contact, he said, “Probably OK.” (pause)
“Keep an eye out. (pause) Last spring I saw a grizzly bear swimming (another one??) from there (pointing right where ‘Love of Liberty’ was moored) across the bay towards m’house.”
Unhurried and bit-by-bit, he went on saying, “Didn’t like that! So, I got into my outboard skiff … and circled the swimming grizzly, trying to scare it back. (pause) I powered closer and closer, making waves in the water.”
Smiling he added, “That bear was fearless! He growled and growled and swung his paw at m’boat. That bear continued to swim.”
Dane decided to give up and let the bear come ashore to roam his homestead. “That was last spring. Now, there’s berries and fat animals up high in the mountains. Haven’t seen any bear lately.”
The next day Ellen and I took the dinghy ashore and hiked the open area for a couple of hours. We saw no animals. Two miles across Loughborough Inlet I could see where the thick forest had been clear-cut in wide swaths. There are no stumps left, and even the forest thatch was scraped off. Some cut areas appear a mild green where the scrub has begun to grow again, but unfortunately the overall loss of vegetation allows mudslides that fill the salmon spawning areas with silt. The salmon return to spawn, but because there are no gravel beds, the salmon runs have diminished. Without salmon the bears’ numbers diminish. Without grass and cover, the deer population diminishes. It may take seventy years to regenerate the trees and forest vegetation. Even so, it’ll never be an ancient forest again. I realize that around the world there is a demand for this lumber and pulp wood. These trees are claimed to be a ‘renewable’ resource that provides income for this culture. And so it goes. Other than birds, we saw few animals and limited our stay to one more day.
A last major fiord just before the three closely spaced fast-water areas of Dent Rapids, Guillard Passage and Yuculta Rapids is Frederick Arm, another inlet bereft of civilization. Well almost bereft of civilization, for nestled invisibly behind a small island close to shore is a tiny restaurant with mooring space for no more than four or five boats. That’s Oleos Resort and Gallery, home to Leon, his wife, daughter Katrina, and two dogs. The moorage is free if you have Leon prepare you a dinner. Three days out, I call on the VHF and talk to Katrina. She assures us that her dad has space and would prepare us a fine French cooked meal. On the VHF I mentioned that Erica, back at Port Neville, had given us some mail to deliver to Katrina.
On entering steep sided Frederick Arm the fathometer reads off scale. With water depths up to 600 feet, other than the shoal area at the head of the inlet there’s no suitable anchorage sites. We have four hundred feet of anchor rode. Considering adequate scope, the boat may barely handle a water depth of 60 to maybe 100 feet - depending on how well you want to sleep at night. In Frederick Arm I’d prefer not to anchor out. I’d like to find Oleos and have a secure mooring space, but I can’t find it. After a quick glance over the stern, just off the starboard quarter, just by chance I spot a small island, a forested geological nubbin extending upward just 150 feet. There, wedged between the island and the shore I get a tiny glimpse of Oleo’s Resort and Gallery. Hard over, I change course and approach. Awaiting us on the dock is Leon, his daughter Katrina, a puppy and another large dog. The dogs are friendly and their nuzzling makes it near impossible to tie a line to the cleat. I shook hands with Leon, a short sturdy fellow in his 70’s. “There’ll be no dinner tonight.” Leon lamented, “The government has closed me for two months. A snafu in their record keeping showed no permit for my water supply - a pure mountain stream and waterfall just two hundred yards away on the mountain side.” It was a water supply he’d been using for years with no problem that was now “unusable” due to a recordkeeping error. It was a devastating governmental mix-up, for Leon had to turn his profit in these three busy summer months. Oleos restaurant was now closed down. He said we could stay the night, if we wished, and he offered us a consolatory gift, a piece of chocolate cake.
There was other misfortune for Leon. A few weeks ago a female wolf, in heat, was on the shore, just a few yards off from their floathouse. Leon’s interested male black Labrador jumped from the float and swam ashore. Wagging his tail he approached the female wolf. It was just a short ways up from the water’s edge when Leon’s dog was immediately attacked by a large male wolf. The male wolf seized the dog’s throat. Leon stood helpless watching from a platform on the houseboat. Locked in the wolf’s jaws, the dog yelped, whimpered a second or two and then went limp and died.
Leon was in better spirits today. He stayed on the dock to talk to us for a while. We began a conversation about his father, a doctor in the French Army, about living here in the cold snowy winters (he heats the floating house with a wood stove), about carving (Leon carves for the local chief), about the restaurant and French cooking. He showed me his kitchen. I showed him my carved talking stick. He was impressed, gave me some red cedar for a carving project and said I could be a master carver sometime. At sunup two days later the dock was empty when we departed. We had to time the three major rapids ahead. I guess Leon, the dogs and Katrina were still asleep in their house behind the restaurant. We backed out slowly to the smooth water of Frederick Arm … and waved goodbye.
While I was programming our course through the trio of rapids, I imagined how Sir Francis Drake, under power of sail, prepared to enter the unknown water of the Yucultas.
“Soon Drake and his men would have heard the low roar of rushing water, and he likely anchored the ships while he went in the pinnace to investigate. A short distance ahead was a swirling cauldron of eddies, overfalls, and whirlpools known as the Yuculta Rapids, the result of large tidal flows being forced through three narrows at rates of up to ten knots. Four times a day they reverse direction with the tide changes, the water falls slack for only a few minutes, and then the current begins building in the opposite direction, soon reaching a velocity at which it is impossible to steer a sailing vessel. (1) The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake 1577-1580 by Samuel Bawlf
We proceeded to make our try by timing the current perfectly. At slack water, the calmness before a substantial ebb, we entered and cleared the three fast water rapids. In one day we made good our way to arrive at Squirrel Cove for fresh food re-provisioning and then refueling at Refuge Cove. In two days we coursed south to arrive at the narrow entrance of alluring Prideaux Haven. Because this Desolation Sound area is shy of the rapids, the Seattle and Vancouver boating crowds accumulate here like sardines in a can. Some long time cruisers never go farther north than this. The weather is in the high 80’s and with everyone here it makes this usually cold, rugged landscape of glaciers, mountain peaks, islands and forests look sort of homely, party like and hospitable. With tiny 20-foot wood sailboats, 50 foot Bayliners, 80-foot custom yachts and 125-foot mega yachts, this place is lousy with boats. We stay here for ten days, and then make a sunrise departure, carefully passing through the tricky entrance. In the morning twilight, in so few minutes the curtain drops; my viewing angle changes. Beautiful Prideaux Haven completely disappears behind the perimeter of glaciers, mountains and forest.
I believe my time up here must be relinquished slowly, so in my mind I take a mental picture of this stunning territory. I make mental images that are retained, stored in a part of my brain to be recalled at some future time. Sometime when I need help, when I need some spirit as when I’m deep in the bowels of a city, having parked in a dirty alley at the side of a congested one-way street, while I’m on my way to a 50-minute lunch where the bowl of soup is $8.50 and the coffee is $4.25. I can’t part from this quickly. This is my church, my citadel. It seems logical to have one more bite of this spiritual feast, one last cruise to Princess Louisa Inlet - the beautiful fiord that was our original attraction to the Northwest, thanks to friend George Knab.
We cruise down the east side of the Straight of Georgia, and in a few days we meet my daughter Sarah and her boyfriend Tom in Pender Harbor. The four of us, their luggage and two large dogs boarded the boat and in ten hours heading northeasterly we again pass Malibu Rapids at slack current. Five more miles up Princess Louisa Inlet we find a space at the float just off Chatterbox Falls. Mooring at the small float is important for we have to take their two dogs ashore, twice daily.
We wait for clear weather, but the surrounding peaks and glaciers stay hidden behind rain and clouds. We have a continuum of cold drizzly days. When it rains heavily, there’s some compensation, for sixty waterfalls drop from cliffs to the inside waters of Princess Louisa Inlet. Tom and my daughter Sarah - bored with the boat and the rain - launched the dinghy. Tom rowed them behind a nearby rocky point. Tom stopped rowing at the base of a “private” un-named waterfall. A whispering fall of water sided by cedars and almost hidden in a rock fissure. A common sight here, but if located in San Francisco Bay, it would be a shrine - acclaimed, worshipped and featured on every calendar. Sitting in the tiny clamshell of a boat, damp and cold, amidst over powering grandeur, Sarah complained and said she’d prefer a view of larger and more magnificent Chatterbox Falls. She said, “Let’s row to the lagoon end, where all the other boats are.” She felt THAT was the attraction, what “everybody” wants to see. The oars stayed still, bobbing abeam the small unstable skiff. Undaunted, Tom got her attention for a few moments … and proposed to her. Stunned, but just for a moment, she accepted the ring. They named those falls “Sarah Falls”, and in their minds only - the tiny, secluded, meaningless waterfall off to the side - has become a memorable Princess Louisa feature. Congratulations to both, and may they, if only in their memory, renew their joy many times by returning to this place.
In higher spirits now we timed our departure and last passage through the dogleg channel of Malibu Rapids. We steered down Queens Reach, Princess Royal Reach, Prince of Wales Reach, (Is there British influence here?) Agamemnon Channel and ultimately arrive at Pender harbor. Sarah and her fiancé Tom, their two dogs and mound of baggage were piled into their Jeep. We gave them hugs, said goodbye and released them to the highway bound for urban San Diego - where they’ll join up with another culture. I’d like them to stay here longer. I wish the weather had been better. Their thoughts now, I had to realize, were of a wedding, new jobs and the upstart debts and dreams of a young couple. They’re headed the other way, away from the out-here where there’s no fast road to follow. Now, they’ll begin to meld with the speedy pace of ten lane highways, work pressures, daily planners, high density housing, few trees and restaurant food for dinner ... and the only animals to be seen are those bought at the pet store. Ellen and I will stay out-here a bit longer. Out-here where I never have to make a lane change at 75 mph, and I’ve never been given the finger for going too slow. There’s no posted minimum speed. Here, I don’t have to look at a magazine picture to see something beautiful. I guess I’ve had my day with quick red cars, gulping down breakfast, late dinners, hectic weekend trips, bragging over big numbers and the expensive ‘right’ house. Why was it so hard to go slow in my youth, so hard to see richer colors of this world? Today I hold fewer marginal opinions, and I’m well - just guessing better about things.
Terry and Ellen
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