As we continue our march up the protected Inside Passage, we anchored in Codville Lagoon for a few days to catch up a bit and wait until the fuel dock in Shearwater opens on Monday. We plan to fill all the fuel tanks when we get to Ketchikan, but we want to be sure we have enough fuel to get us there – we need fuel for the engines as well as the generator (to charge batteries) and for the diesel-fired heating system.
We’re in a big protected anchorage and the birds have been entertaining. Of course I saw the best bird action the first afternoon out in the kayak on one of those very rare occasions that I’m not dragging any cameras along. A Barrow’s goldeneye duck was alternately trying to impress and harass his two girlfriends – they appreciated his dancing but not his ambushes so there was a lot of squawking and flying away before the routine would begin again. The mergansers were just hanging out on a log, and there were lots of little murrelets cruising around.
We got to enjoy a few hours of rainy weather to catch up on some mundane things like dusting and vacuuming inside, as well as catching up on editing the growing pile of photos I keep taking.Codville Lagoon is labeled as a Marine Park on the chart, and there was a tiny official sign from BC Parks at the head of the trail that leads up to a lake. (The official sign only said: “There are no trash facilities here – carry your trash out with you.”) We read about the trail in some of the cruising guides with a warning that the trail was muddy. After our experience hiking in Pruth Bay we developed a healthy respect for the “muddy” description so we donned our knee-high boots. Luckily we discovered that the trail had been improved since the guide book was written. There were some places with boards on the ground or short little boardwalks to get through some of the worst spots, though we were still glad for the boots because it was still pretty soggy here and there. The lake was a real surprise – about a mile long by 3/4 of a mile wide with a reddish sandy beach along one side. We saw lots of deer prints in the sand, as well as some wolf prints.We’ve enjoyed our hikes through the woods – we are in a temperate rainforest and it has a very special feeling to it with thick layers of moss on tree branches, “nurse logs” (dead trees that provide a perfect haven for new trees and plants to grow on), a variety of ferns, tiny mushrooms, lichens, etc. We like these little details in nature so I’m carrying a macro lens more often when we hike.
We anchored in Pruth Bay (about 20 miles north of Fury Cove) near the Hakai Beach Institute, an independent scientific research outstation with some nice facilities and a lot of different sized boats. The attraction for us was access to some beautiful remote sandy beaches open to the Pacific. As with all the shorelines around here there were countless logs piled up high up on shore, weathered to a silvery finish. Note that some of the logs can be really big (Jim is in a red jacket sitting at the far end) – this is one reason people don’t run their boats at night in this region – hitting something like this would really ruin your day!
One of the beaches was a short hike through the forest on a maintained trail with boardwalks, but the other beach was a much longer hike, past a pond, scrambling up and down and through quite a few places that were very very muddy… but well worth the mess. We found very few shells on these beaches, but the northern beach had a lot of different colored granite rocks, polished round and smooth clacking gently in the surf. I must confess to having a weakness for beachcombing, and that includes interesting rocks as well as shells. Let’s just say that I couldn’t resist some things, and it made my heavy camera bag much heavier as we slogged through the mud and scrambled up and down the trail. We read reports of wolf sightings here, but we didn’t see any.
While I was photographing some of the little shore birds (dunlin, whimbrel and plovers) Jim called my attention to an otter that popped up from behind the dune and scampered down to the ocean.
We came back to the beach the next day and enjoyed a picnic lunch, and we spent some more time photographing the shore birds as well as some macro subjects in the forest. We saw several eagles soaring, and a mink in the woods.
We had an odd thing happen that had us concerned at first. We left our dinghy tied up to the Institute’s dock near the sign saying that visitors were welcome. When we got back several hours later it looked like our dinghy had been ransacked – there were things taken out of the under-seat bag, and the life jacket and shammy tucked between the seat and the fuel tank had been taken out. The boat was other wise clean and neat so it couldn’t have been otters. Otters leave a horrible mess – nature’s equivalent of a frat party. There was no one around to ask, so we wondered if maybe someone from the Institute was checking out our dinghy, and it made us feel a little creepy.
The next day we tied the dink up and went ashore, and when we returned we found a few things laying on the deck, but the boat was otherwise clean. Jim found someone to ask about it, and they told us it was a raven. Apparently the local ravens know that boats might have fish or food, and they boldly go looking for things, getting into bags and coolers. Mystery solved!
We traveled 278 nautical miles in 6 days from Princess Louisa Inlet through Desolation Sound, the Broughtons, and around Cape Caution into northern British Columbia. Cape Caution can be a nasty area, and the wind, wave, and tide conditions have to be right to make an easy and safe passage. Jim saw a good weather window a week ahead of time, and it remained open as we proceeded north.
Here’s a map showing Vancouver, Princess Louisa Inlet, all of Vancouver Island (which is about 300 miles long by 50 miles wide), and our anchorage in Fury Cove. It was very hard zooming through such great cruising areas in Desolation Sound and the Broughtons which we enjoyed last summer, but we’re focused on getting up to SE Alaska and we can’t afford to dawdle too much. On top of that, a great weather window is worth its weight in gold. There are two paths to get from Desolation into the Broughtons – the “back way” through five rapids, or Johnstone Strait and Seymour Narrows (where the big ships run). We’ve taken both paths and they both require some timing of tidal currents, but we thought the “back way” was prettier and more protected from wind. Rapids, you say? It sounds really crazy, but the rapids are only dangerous when the tidal current is running (and then they can be truly evil). At slack current they are like a mill pond, and that’s when it’s safe to transit them. The cruising guides explain how to time the rapids so you can do a few at a time – there are three very close together but the third one (Dent Rapids) must be done at dead slack, so we have to deal with the tail end of the tide against us through the first two.
As we came through the second rapids we saw well over a dozen bald eagles soaring or perched in the trees, some mature and some young ones. It was an amazing sight, but we could only grab a quick photo since we were busy navigating through a narrow area – I guess the eagles prefer to hunt in the churning water there.
After the first set of three rapids we had to stop for the night since we couldn’t get through the other two on the same tidal change.
We tied up at Blind Channel Resort (the term “resort” is rather misleading) and we were able to explore some hiking trails through a 90 year old second-growth forest. One of the hikes led up to a huge western red cedar that is 16′ in diameter and is thought to be over 800 years old.
The next afternoon we ran the remaining rapids with no problems and continued to head north as Jim monitored the weather. Our window remained open so we anchored in a protected anchorage as close to Cape Caution as we could get just in case the window started to close early – we knew a storm front was approaching. On Monday (5/12) we headed out at 0600 in the drippy rain to round the Cape after a final check of the weather radio indicated good conditions. We had a nice easy ride – the seas were rippled, winds were light, and there was just a slight swell… by 1130 we were tucked safely into Fury Cove – a nice way to celebrate one year since ADVENTURES arrived in the Pacific Northwest.Fury Cove is a beautiful, remote spot with great protection and a pretty shell beach. We watched loons, mergansers, and eagles, and saw a little marten (a cousin of the weasel or mink) scampering over the rocks. We had a view of Fitz Hugh Sound, but were safe from wind and waves.
Leaving Vancouver we had to wriggle through the large ship anchorage in English Bay where over a dozen ships were waiting for their turn to enter the port and load up. You can see how empty the ships are – all the red is bottom paint that should be submerged when the ship is fully loaded. From there we stopped for a night at a Provincial Marine Park where we enjoyed the warm sunshine and took a long hike – it may have been the warmest day we’ll have this summer! The long hike was a good way to shift gears from the big city to wilder places, which I prefer.
Our next destination was Princess Louisa Inlet – a favorite spot from last summer’s cruise. As the raven flys Princess Louisa (circled in red) is not far from Whistler ski resort and it’s about 70 miles from Vancouver, but as slow boats go we had to travel a fairly long way to get up there. As we traveled north the mountains got taller and much more steep, and the water got deeper – down to 2000′ in one place. These are fjords cut by glaciers and they are dramatic. Not only is it a long trip with nowhere to stop along the way, but there is a short rapid through a blind S-curve that must be navigated at slack current to get up into this last, most special fjord named Princess Louisa.
We came up here last July because we had heard this was a must-see place, and it proved to be very true. It is very hard to find the right superlatives to describe Princess Louisa – the word “magnificent” seems woefully inadequate. We vowed to return in the spring when the countless waterfalls are running hard with the spring runoff, and this visit surpassed our expectations. The sound of the largest and closest – Chatterbox Falls – is a persistent roar, and the cloud of mist erupting from the falls rises higher than the falls themselves. I counted at least 16 different waterfalls just near the head of the inlet, and we’ve been told that there are 66 in all – I believe it.Note how tiny the boats are in the lower right part of the photo – there’s no way to describe how BIG it all is. We came up here to spend a few days savoring the views and soaking up the majesty of it all. There isn’t a lot to do up here – there are some short walking paths to the sides of the largest waterfall and an incredibly strenuous hike to an old trapper’s cabin high up the mountain face. Kayaking is a perfect way to explore around the edges and investigate many of the other falls, but otherwise this is simply a place to sit quietly and take it all in.
We saw a lot of wildlife, though we never saw the mother black bear and her two cubs reported by others on the dock. We did see a beaver swimming one evening, as well as lots of these mergansers and a number of harlequin ducks, particularly down by the rapids at the mouth of the inlet – they liked to fish in the brisk current.Although the trees are mostly evergreen (Douglas fir, western red cedar), there were some clusters of deciduous trees in their lighter spring green (notice the two waterfalls in the photo – they are not small!). In the forest there were tiny wildflowers in bloom, and the ferns were unfurling their fiddles to reveal new miniature leaves.
We wrapped up our visit with a little tour of the Young Life camp down at the mouth of the inlet – it’s an old resort that was abandoned and taken over in the 70s as a fantastic youth camp. They told us about how John Wayne liked to come up to Princess Louisa in the 40s with his big yacht, as well as a number of other wealthy and famous people.
We hated to leave, but it’s time to move on. Our next adventure is to run through the series of rapids to get us up into the Broughtons where we can start looking for a weather window to get around the aptly named Cape Caution.