Through the Rapids and Around Cape Caution

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. trip map fury cove RESIZEIt 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. 20140507 6882 view down queens reach RESIZEThere 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.

20140509 6989 gillard rapids eagles RESIZEAs 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.

20140510_067 800 year old cedar RESIZE

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.20140513 6941 adventures in fury cove RESIZEFury 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.20140513 fury cove shell beach RESIZE

Shifting Gears – Princess Louisa Inlet


20140501 6650 vancouver empty tanker RESIZELeaving 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.  Princess Louisa big pictureAs 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.Copy - Princess Louisa Inlet_01
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.20130710 2229 princess louisa_01Note 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.

20140504 6739 princess louisa favorite waterfall RESIZE20140504 6600 mergansers 2 RESIZEWe 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.20140504 6575 harlequin ducks RESIZE_0120140503 6681 princess louisa spring trees and waterfalls RESIZEAlthough 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.20140506 6856 fern fiddle closeup RESIZE

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.

More Vancouver Adventures

We lucked out and had pretty nice weather for our exploration of Vancouver, savoring the views of the tall city buildings against the backdrop of the mountains nearby.  The large green space of Stanley Park is easy to see – a true urban oasis.

20140426 6454 van english bay skyline RESIZE20140430 6547 van capilano bridge RESIZEWe took the shuttle over to West Vancouver to see the Capilano Suspension Bridge – a 450′ long foot bridge high over a river gorge.  The bridge was very neat, though we have some friends who would not have appreciated the oscillations and gyrations from people walking on it, or the height.  On the far side we saw some huge Douglas fir trees over 1000 years old, standing over 200′ tall.  Among the firs, hemlock, and western red cedar they ran some more suspended walkways up in the forest canopy, which was really neat.  We had fun strolling through the woods – this coast of BC is home to one of the world’s few temperate rainforests.20140430 6510 van capilano jim on forestwalk RESIZE


The theme of this whole park is that you get to walk on things suspended in the air, and the final part of the park was the Cliffwalk.  It took some pretty fancy engineering to build steel and cable walkways that hang from the cliff and arch out over the gorge.  We had a lovely warm day to enjoy the views, and it was neat to see something like this just 20 minutes from downtown.



20140430 6534 van capilano cliffwalk RESIZEAfter an afternoon spent communing with nature, we headed back to Granville Island to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables from the big public market.  The displays of the food and flowers were so tempting, it was hard not to buy much more than we needed!

OLY20140429_030 van market fruits RESIZEOLY20140429_034 van market sweet treats RESIZEOLY20140426_022 market flowers RESIZE20140427 6463 van science at nite RESIZEThere’s a lot more to see around the city, and we liked the convenience of our spot near the Science Center with its IMAX dome and funky lights.  The views of the city, especially after the sun set, are hard to beat.

And we liked the funny artwork in the Olympic Village – we could see this bird statue and courtyard right from the boat.20140426 6448 van big sparrow RESIZE

There’s a lot more to see around Vancouver, but we’ve got to keep heading north.  We’ll be back to this area in about 18 months and we hope to spend a bit more time exploring the city.


20140425 6407 vancouver approaching through ship anchorage RESIZEWe crossed the Strait of Georgia and made our approach into Vancouver.  It’s a big city and a very busy port, and we had to wriggle among the dozen or so ships at anchor waiting for their turn to dock.

We were pretty excited to finally get here to explore a bit – all our friends have told us what a fun city this is.  We decided to anchor in False Creek, just off the Science Center and adjacent to what used to be the Olympic Village when Vancouver hosted the Winter Games in 2010.  We were surrounded by beautiful condos and two arenas, right downtown and convenient to everything.

20140425 6416 van false creek RESIZE20140427 6455 van paddlers RESIZELittle water taxis buzzed past us as well as kayaks, canoes (how do they stay balanced in that!)…

…and most importantly – dragon boats!  We were anchored near a dock that was home to about a dozen dragon boats, and the various teams and clubs were out practicing every evening until dark, and all weekend long.  There are many more teams than there are boats, so they take turns.  It was especially fun watching the younger kids learning to paddle together.  We’ve watched dragon boat races here in BC last summer, and it can be serious business!  It involves about 22-24 paddlers, someone to steer, and someone to yell.

20140428 6473 van dragonboat RESIZEOLY20140426_014 van concrete strawberry truck RESIZEThere is a lot to see around the city, but we had heard good things about the arts and the market on Granville Island, so we headed there first.  Amidst all the shops and arts, there is a concrete factory, and it happened to be having an open house the next day.  Some of their trucks are painted up like fruit and vegetables so they were clearly an interesting bunch.  The open house was very interesting – we learned that “cement is the ‘flour’ and concrete is the ‘bread'”, as well as other interesting tidbits.  The variety of concrete products would surprise and amaze, and we had fun learning some new things.

noodlesOur good friends Linda and Ed suggested a great noodle place for dinner (featured on the Food Network), and we enjoyed the northern Chinese cuisine…  a nice break after walking many miles around town all day.  We hit the Maritime Museum (of course), and the Aquarium when the weather was a bit iffy.  But for the most part we had great weather and we loved all the different views of the city.  This photo below is from Stanley Park – a huge forested park downtown, with a group of fellows playing cricket in the foreground.

OLY20140427_047 van skyline RESIZE