Thursday, May 14, 2009

#15 - Bottleneck Bay to Hartley Bay

We left at 6:30AM for Hartley Bay, 60 miles up the Passage, after pulling our traps. It was a crisp morning and we had little wind and flat seas. About half way there, we pulled into Butedale an old dilapidated fish cannery town. In it's heyday from 1920-1950, 500 workers toiled here from May to September each year processing the salmon catch into cans. Then with ice plants and ship-based fish processing plants, fish cannery towns were obsoleted. Today Butedale continues to decline.

Our route from Bottleneck Bay to Hartley Bay

Butedale May, 2009

One shipwreck that has always interested Alex is the March 22-23, 2006 sinking of the BC Ferry "Queen of the North". This 400-foot ship ran aground on the shoal off Gil Island just before midnight on the 22nd. The crew failed to make the normal 15 degree left turn when exiting the bottom of Grenville Channel, the ship continued straight and ran aground near Gil Rock. It sank in about 800 feet of water. On the advice of union attorneys, the on-watch crew has not cooperated with the investigation. Rumored cause of the catastrophe: romance in the pilot house!

The route of the Queen caused the ferry to hit Gil Island

Since we were transiting the area, Alex thought it would be a good exercise to locate the wreck on sonar, which charts the bottom up to 1400 feet deep. We thought the wreck on a gentle sloping 800-foot bottom would show up on the sonar as a 100+ foot steep depth change. Try as we might, we couldn't find the wreck and we'll try again next year. We heard rumors in Port Hardy that there may be an attempt to raise the Queen. We did take a photo of the location of Gil Rock and grave of the Queen of the North.

Gil Island coastline and grave of the Queen of the North

99 of 101 passengers and crew survived the sinking BC Ferry mainly because help from the community of Hartley Bay. This native peoples town of 200 heard about the sinking, and at 1AM the town was awakened and all the available boats sped to the scene. The rescued persons were ferried to shelter at Hartley Bay which has a small medical clinic and helo pad.

Today the people of the Bay are just as friendly. We asked a young man playing with his child where to pay our moorage fees. He told us there are no fees and don't pay if anybody asks! Mike and Joe visited the museum and local school whose staff was willing to give them a tour, except that school was in session.

Hartley Bay harbor and town.

Willie is chefing again. Tonight's epicurean extravaganza included fresh crab cakes, fresh prawn gumbo, butter and whole garlic bread, and chocolate "Hartley Bay" candy bars. We'll take two Lipitors tonight and burn a bunch of energy tomorrow on our way to Prince Rupert.

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