Monday, May 12, 2014

2014-08 Gorge Harbour, Surge Narrows, Johnstone Strait, Queen Charlotte Strait to Blunden Harbour; Cape Caution, Pruth Bay to Kwakume Inlet, and finally to Shearwater..

Good morning from Shearwater in central British Columbia, about 75 miles north of the top end of Vancouver Island.  Clouds, light rain and wind have re-started from the southeast after two glorious days of sunny weather.  We arrived here yesterday at the Marina's noon checkout time to insure we'd have a spot at the dock.  Another feat of excellent planning: of course the dock was completely empty, prompting Pat to exclaim "Oh, they've must not be open this year!"

Friday, May 9th: Gorge to Blunden

On Friday, after a first morning's light start from Gorge Harbour, we S-turned through Uganda Passage and bore right towards Beazley Passage. At Beazley we enjoyed 7:30am slack current, easily missing "boat rock" and relaxing through Surge Narrows.  At Okisollo's Upper Rapids we were joined by the tug pushing a barge who had just squirted out of Hole-in-The-Wall from the east.  Side-by-side with the pusher tug, we split Gypsy Shoal at Okisollo's Lower Rapids then merged onto Discovery Passage for it's last few miles to the northeast elbow in the middle of Vancouver Island.  We then turned west into Johnstone Strait.

Exiting Gorge Harbour's Skinny Entrance

A pusher tug joined us at Hole-In-The-Wall.
We continued up Johnstone Strait in clearing weather, little wind and flat seas.  We're thinking Lagoon Cove for the night, then decided the weather looked so calm we should continue further. Once we cleared Blackney Passage the sun appeared and the seas glassed off.  The barometer was rising so we decided on Sullivan Bay, on the mainland side of the Inside Passage.  At Wells passage, the Sullivan Bay turnoff, the conditions were so nice we just couldn't stop.  Finally at 7pm near Blunden Harbor, we chatted about rounding Cape Caution. However Pat said 14 hours was long enough.  We anchored in Blunden, and since one can't legally collect them, dreamed of Indian Beads.

This first view of Queen Charlotte Strait looked awful good.
Too good to stop!
Saturday, May 10th: Blunden, around Cape Caution to Kwakume Inlet via Pruth Bay

We're up before the sun again today for the rounding of Cape Caution.  The forecast looks good so we start today's trek at 5:30am.  Outside along BC's mainland coast, there's some commercial traffic: the Pacific Titan with large container barge, the Zandaam and Radiance of the Seas with about 2,500 persons each, and the Matanuska with people and cars Alaska bound.

On any waterway, especially where there's constrained navigational routes and plenty of commercial traffic, ships are controlled by Vessel Traffic Service or VTS.  VTS is like an airport control tower and each ship checks into VTS when it enters a VTS area.  For our route from Vancouver, there's Vancouver VTS on VHF 12, then Comox VTS on VHF 71,and Price Rupert VTS on VHF 11.  Although not required to check-in and be controlled by VTS, we listen in so as to become aware of ships headed our way.  This has always been our practice while cruising.  In the past, VTS acknowledged only other ships that have checked-in.  So we were surprised to hear VTS announce "The non-participating ship Wild Blue on AIS northbound approaching Cape Caution". Both Comox and Prince Rupert VTS now announce AIS targets as well as ships that have checked-in which is a great help to ships in areas with poor AIS reception.  We're always learning on the IP.

The seas were rocking and rolling off the Cape and Pat wasn't too enamored.  But all was better once we slipped inshore behind the rocks, reefs, and small islands that protect the inner waters near the surf line.

Sunrise at Blunden Harbour.
A pretty ocean tug Pacific Titan towing
a not-so-pretty container barge.
The Cape Caution light seems so small for such a notorious cape.
The inside route above the Cape looks nasty as the route is just
outside the surf line, but turns out to be less rolly.
Matanuska, the Alaska ferry, Alaska bound.
Once inside Calvert Island, the seas flattened and we motored along the western edge Fitz Hugh Sound.  At 1:30pm we turned to port into Kawkshua Channel which leads to Pruth Bay.  Pruth was empty, but we didn't anchor, or even try to catch another 57 lb halibut like in 2008.  Instead we fired up the wifi and connected to the Hakai Lodge wifi system.  After email and Google news fixes, we made a U-turn back out Kawkshua Channel, dodged two humpbacks, crossed Fitz Hugh Sound to Kwakume Inlet, where we anchored for the night.

This year there's loads of logs moving south on the IP.
The pretty Lois H Is also towing.....
......The Lois H is towing another log barge.
....... And bringing along her own "wrangling tug".
A wrangling tug at work.
Hold on and don't take off your life vest!
There's a submerged rock in the middle of Kwakume Inlet.
Lucky for us it was well-marked by these seals.
Sunday, May 11th: Kwakume Inlet to Shearwater

At the lazy hour of 8am we pulled the hook and set off to Shearwater. We'll be here for at least two nights while we have a few mechanical items serviced.

Canadian Coast Guard Station Denny Island, BC.
Since 15% of Seattle Seahawks season ticket holders are from
British Columbia, and most of the Alaska fisherman are from
 Seattle, it's good practice to display the home team "fan" banner.

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