Thursday, August 16, 2012

Day 3 Yet- A Great Transit From Cambell River to Port Hardy

Day 3 -Beaver Harbor (Just South of Port Hardy), Wednesday, August 15, 2012

After our crazy night, we were glad to be out of Campbell River.  We waited until the current in Seymour Narrows settled to about 6 knots and then just throttled up flew through it.  No problem.  This treacherous stretch has taken out many a ship in its day.  There’s quite a story about how the Canadians blasted an underwater mountain out from the middle of the passage to make it safer.  The key is to pass at slack current or close to it, as is the case in many Pacific Northwest Passages.  At 25 knots this is not as big of deal as at 7 knots, but still, always something to plan around.  I tried to balance our late departure waiting for the currents to settle with the expected winds that tend to kick up later in the day in Johnstone Strait and then balance that with the morning fog that is so common around here in the mornings.  All in all, the entire passage all the way was smooth, quiet, and, for the most part, pretty clear.  Thank God for no problems with the Strait of Georgia or Johnstone Strait.  I pray that continues as we’ve got scarier crossing to make on the West side.

Time-wise, we’ve only been gone a few days; however, we’re by Port Hardy in Beaver Harbor in a really beautiful cove.  More on that later.  Port Hardy is on the North tip of Vancouver Island so you could say that we’re already nearly half way around the island; however, we plan on spending the next few weeks poking our nose into many of the inlets and harbors along the West Coast of the island.  These are expected to be the most challenging waters we’ve ever encountered but I think the crew and I are up for it.  All systems on the boat are running flawlessly, thanks to Ron Meng and the crew at Islands Marine Center, the Ocean Sport Roamer builder/dealer on Lopez Island.  Currently, my trip meter tells me we’ve put on 256 nautical miles (295 statute miles) so far.  Not bad for 3 days but I’m ready to slow it down and do more hiking, fishing, kayaking, beachcombing, photography, etc.

OK.  Back to our trip from Campbell River to Port Hardy…  As we were transiting Johnstone Strait we noticed a huge pod of dolphins.  (Is that what they are?  Flock?  No. Heard?  No.  Pod?  Maybe.  I’ll stick with pod.)  As we pulled the throttles back, many shot over to us and frolicked in our bow wave and our wakes.  It was simply incredible… hundreds of dolphins all around us and dozens swimming right beside, under, and all around our boat…literally, feet from us.  It was by far the best dolphin encounter we’ve ever had.  Val commented that Connor’s classroom sure beats a brick one.  (Connor is home schooled and does his work whenever we’re not having fun… the problem is, we’re always having fun!)

The further north we got the more fog threatened to slow us down.  All I had to do was turn the radar on and it seemed to miraculously burn off as we approached it.  We only had to slow down for a few minutes and then just a tad.  The fog did add a certain mystery to the setting.  I think it’s beautiful in its own way.

Realizing we’d be in some pretty remote places the next few weeks, we decided to stop at Telegraph Cove for lunch.  It’s a funky little resort with interesting shops and restaurants and a boardwalk around the entire cove.  And, they had Internet access.  I want to have everything caught up before we leave civilization!  We enjoyed our fish and chips on the outside deck in the wonderful cool air and glorious warm sunshine.

We spent a few hours at Telegraph Cove and we were all getting pretty tired from our lack of last night so we decided to find a little cove by Port Hardy and have a nice relaxing evening on the hook.  We ended up only 3 miles from Port Hardy in Beaver Harbor and found the neatest little cove completely filled with so much wildlife.  As we anchored, there were Coho salmon jumping everywhere, several in the air at any given moment.  There were curious seals checking us out.  Various kinds sea birds were all singing praises.  A massive humpback whale came to check us out and swam directly under our boat.  His “swoosh” as he went under actually lifted the bow of the boat a few inches.  That’s the closest we’ve ever been to a humpback.  He fished around our boat all evening.  They are amazingly graceful and beautiful creatures.

As soon as the anchor was set, Connor launched the dinghy and I threw the kayak in the water.  We were off to catch those salmon.  Within 15 minutes, we each had one.  Dinner!  Val started prep in the kitchen and Connor and I cleaned the fish.  We enjoyed our first fresh salmon meal of the year in an amazing anchorage.

What a day it has been!  Tomorrow, we’ll sleep until we’re caught up on our sleep and then we’ll make the short trip into Port Hardy for fuel and water.  Then, depending on the forecast, we’ll fish or find an anchorage close to our “staging” area for the crossing around the North tip, Cape Scott.  I get nervous just thinking about that.  For now, it’s bedtime!   Goodnight. 

Day 3 - A Very, Very Near Death Experience in Campbell River-

Day 3- A Very, Very Near Death Experience in Campbell River-

Written Wednesday, August 15, 2012-

Well, if you thought this blog was lacking excitement the last few days, so did I, but all that changed today!  Oh my, what a day it was.  It actually started very, very early and very, very sad.

If you remember, we were in a slip in Campbell River in the Discovery Harbor Marina.  It’s a large marina…many hundreds of boats there.  As you know, I don’t like marinas but they are necessary and appreciated and serve their purpose.

Well, last night, actually, early this morning, Val and I were both sleeping (or trying to) but we kept hearing people talking loudly and running up and down the dock.  You know when you’re in the euphoric state and not quite sure what is reality and what isn’t?  Well, these voices and footsteps were keeping me from my deep sleep but I wasn’t quite alert enough to assume anything abnormal; however, suddenly, I hear a horrific scream from a young woman, “Oh, God.  Someone help me.  Oh, God, help!”  As I wake, my first thought is that some young folks are messing around and its’ late and they’re getting silly but then the cries turned absolutely horrifying! She was shrieking at the top of her lungs.  I hear a splash in the water very close to our boat.  Suddenly, I realized someone was drowning!  No!

I shot out of my berth, threw on my shorts, grabbed my huge spot light, and screamed at Val that someone was drowning right next to us!  Out the door I went with the big light on searching for where the ruckus was coming from.  It didn’t take long before I thought I spotted a man in the water and the terrified woman trying to pull a body onto the dock.  She was screaming at the top of her lungs and could not get the body out of the water and onto the dock.  Our slip was half way down “H” dock and the commotion was half way down “I” dock.  I knew I could help so off I ran as fast as I could down “H” across the main and up “I” dock.  Could this be happening?  Was this a mother trying to rescue her young son?  That’s all I could imagine.  This all is happening within seconds of my awakening.  Am I having a horrible nightmare?

I wish it were the case.  But, no, as I arrived, I saw that another man, which I assume was the fourth in this party, had helped pull the body onto the dock.  I shined my million candlepower light on the scene and realize that this situation had just gotten really, really bad.  In my opinion, the male body had looked like it had been in the water for a very long time.  I won’t describe the details but, needless to say, the image will never leave my mind and I didn’t sleep the rest of night.  I asked the young lady (I’m guessing the four of them were all in their early 30s) if she knew CPR and she immediately began working on his chest while she commanded one of the other guys to blow air into the victim’s mouth.  I was so thankful that they had gotten him on the dock and that they knew CPR.  I didn’t know what to do but pray.  I’ll spare some of the details here but within moments the medics arrived and took over.  Thank God.  Val was up and dressed by then and met me as I stood a few feet away while the medics tried to revive him.  Neither of us were optimistic and just prayed.  Teams of professionals were arriving, sirens, lights, the works.  Val and I asked the dock security agent if there was anything further we could do and then quietly walked back to our boat.  What a surreal experience.

Connor was at the helm when we got back to the boat sitting in the dark watching the scene unfold across the fairway.  The medics were now administering the CPR and the defibulator.  As hard as they tried, they could not get a response.  His three friends were on their knees wailing and sobbing and crying, “Jeff, come back.  Please, Jeff, come back!”  The medics were still working on him as they hauled the man off on a stretcher.  Oh my!  What had just happened here?  A nightmare?  Not!

An office came down our dock and visited with us a bit and said that he’d like our statement later but he had more pressing issues to deal with at the time.   Val, Connor, and I convened again in our boat, prayed over the situation, and reflected on what had just happened.  I was pretty shaken.  Connor informed us it was now 3:30 in the morning.  My guess is we had been alarmed from our slumber an hour earlier.

We tried to sleep but we could hear the Royal Canadian Mounted Police up and down the docks, radios chattering, lights flashing.  All I could think about were the images, the screams, the terror.  I prayed they had revived the man.  Finally, at 6AM, I got dressed, got the dogs leashes on and hopped off the boat heading for a doggie pottie break and some Starbucks.  The RCMP immediately retained me, got my credentials, and started to question me.  I gave the officer everything I knew, but admitted, it all happened so fast and I went from asleep to terror.  That officer asked me to wait while he hailed the lead investigator, who came right over and I had to relive it all again for him, this time on tape.  I don’t want to judge or jump to any conclusions but the officers certainly weren’t just accepting this was just an accident.  I kept praying it was.  I finally asked if the man had been revived.  He had not.

Finally, the dogs and I were released (or, in the dog’s case, relieved) and we went up for my Venti Raspberry Mocha.  Ah, a bit of solace in the chaos.  My heart was broken and I couldn’t get my feelings under control.  I was just so grateful for my family as I knew other’s lives were shattered just a few hours ago.

As I returned to the boat, there were officers all over the docks taking pictures, collecting evidence, talking to all the other boaters.

I needed to get my mind off of this so I started cleaning the boat, prepared it for departure, took my shower, checked my emails, and made phone calls.  At 9AM, Val and Connor were ready to go so we started our engines and departed.  I was very glad to be gone.   This is a night I will never forget.

As I laid in bed wide awake between the time of the incident and the time I got up, I reflected on the scripture Connor shared for our devotions: Psalm 86: 1-7, where the psalmist cries out to the Lord in his time of trial.  I realized that, while I actually didn’t do anything, in my heart, I was relying on my own ability to handle the situation instead of crying out to the Lord, the only God that could have saved that man.  Yes, I prayed, but in the heat of the moment, I was thinking, “what can I do?  I’ve got to help.  I’ve got to jump in the water and pull him out.  I’ve got to give him CPR.  I’ve got to….”  Well, maybe I’m being too hard on myself.  Val says so, but, the words of the Psalmist, still ring in my ears.  There are so many life lessons I learned from last night.  God doesn’t waste a thing and good will come from this but it’s just hard to see right now.

We had an amazing day after this but for now, I think I’ll close this entry and start afresh with a much, much brighter outlook to the magnificent day that lied ahead.