Monday, August 20, 2012

Day 7- Sunday, Aug.19 - Sea Otter Cove to Browning Inlet by Winter Harbor - Great Fishing!

Day 7 – Sunday, August 19, 2012 - Sea Otter Cove to Browning Inlet (By Winter Harbour, Quantsino Sound) – Great Fishing!

What a great day it has been.  We got an early start this morning and were motoring out of Sea Otter Cove by 7:30.  Our prayer was for flat seas and visibility to make the 20 mile run on the outside unprotected waters to Quantsino Sound.  It was overcast but no fog.  As the engines warmed, we cruised into San Josef Bay to check out the beach.  It was probably the nicest one yet but we wanted to keep going.  The water was flat calm!  Praise, God!  Seriously, we did, too!  This is a great place to have church!

As we got closer to our destination, I thought I saw several boats offshore, a rarity so far. I turned on my radar and, sure enough, about 4 miles out, I picked them up on my screen.  I said to Val that my guess is they are fishing boats out of Winter Harbor and I asked her if she wanted to fish.  She can never say no.  She loves fishing more than anyone I know.  We turned in the their direction and saw all kinds of guide boats out there pulling in salmon with their clients.  With flat seas and brightening skies we geared up for the big catch planning on spending a short time giving it a try.  Within minutes, Val and I were pulling in cohos.  Connor, sound asleep in his berth, heard the excitement and decided he wanted to try too.

We all had great success.  We could have limited out in cohos but we’re only allowed a total of 8 salmon a piece on this trip (possession limit) and want to save them for some big king salmon, hopefully. So, we kept a real nice coho that Val caught for eating, even though we still have a package left from Beaver Bay.  I pulled in two real nice Ling Cod, a real treat.  We slowed our troll down hoping to tempt a halibut into biting and, sure enough, I pulled up a small “chicken” but at least there’s fresh halibut in the fridge and a few packages in the freezer.  Val sounded like she was in labor but finally landed the biggest Rock Fish, a.k.a. Red Snapper, I’ve ever personally seen.  What a prehistoric and crazy looking fish.  They grow really slow and it’s sad that a fish like this may be 100 years old.  The DFO does a nice job of limiting catches but it’s not always easy to know where and when you can catch them.  This one was a real beauty.

Connor was complaining because his pole wasn’t as hot as Val’s.  He said he needed a “herring aid.”  We all thought that was pretty clever and got a chuckle.  Sure enough, it was Connor’s turn for a big one.  He fought long and hard and pulled in the biggest Ling Cod I’ve ever seen (besides in pictures.)  This fish is even more prehistoric looking!  They have huge heads and huge teeth but skinny bodies, although this guy yielded nine packages of nice filets which make the best fish and chips (at least the fish part of that dish.)  It was non-stop action but I knew there was a lot of fish cleaning and boat cleaning to do so I had to pry the fishing poles out of the hands of Val and Connor and we headed towards the inlet.

The weather turned out to be such a blessing even though we could hear thunder and see lightning in the distance.  I kept a vigilant eye on the system and meanwhile enjoyed the warm sun and glassy seas.  We rounded the corner into Quantsino Inlet and found a pretty little cove to anchor in.

Connor started his homework while I cleaned fish and Val vacuum packaged them.  We carry a deep freeze in one of the fish holds and keep it cranked as cold as it will go.  Then, we run the inverter when the engines are running or the genset when we’re at anchor but, much of the time, we’re able to keep things frozen solid even when the engines and the genset aren’t running just by letting it “coast” a while.

Val started dinner and I went for a kayak ride while Connor continued his studies.  An hour later, Val had one of my favorite, most amazing meals ready: salmon filets stuffed with bacon, asparagus, and tons of crab, covered with mayo and a perfect blend of monterey jack and parmesan cheese with a side of fresh asparagus, a salad, and my made from scratch tomato basil baked bread, fresh from the oven and still warm.  Oh my, what a meal!
Well, tomorrow is Monday and it’s back to the office.  Our plans are always pretty loose on the boat as there are many, many variables to change everything.  I plan to get up early and take the dinghy into Winter Harbor (about 3 miles) to try to find a phone connection and Internet.  Connor will start school.  Val will clean the boat and prepare the laundry.  Upon my return, we hope to go for a hike and then afterwards, we’ll take the Dakota Roamer (the mother ship) into Winter Harbour to do laundry and fill her with water as well as more communications with the outside world.  I haven’t had a cell signal since Thursday night.  I’m not complaining but I don’t want anyone waiting on me or worrying about us.

The boat is running great.  Ron Meng and IMC crew have done a great job with their Ocean Sport Roamers.  This boat works perfectly for our family and is very comfortable for the way we use it.  I am very thankful for the places she takes us and the things we experience.  What a great way to be a family and live a grand adventure.

Well, that’s it for today.  I hope you are all doing well.  Send me an e-mail sometime.  Blessings, friends.

Day 6 - Saturday, Aug. 18 - Sea Otter Cove Beach Hike

 Day 6- Saturday, August 18, 2012 – Still in Sea Otter Cove

Wow!  We must have been tired.  We didn’t get out of bed until 10AM this morning and I slept like a rock.  We woke up to fog, clouds, but a light breeze.  We decided to try to find the trailhead that lead to Lowrie Beach.  Pepper spray, check.  Cameras, check.  Dog leashes, check.  Val decided to bring the air horn as she’s worried about another wolf attack or bear attack.

We had a hard time finding a place deep enough to beach the dinghy.  We keep running aground about 100 yards out from the shoreline and knew that the tide would rise about 8’ or so meaning our dinghy  would be a long, long ways from shore at high tide and the water is very cold.  Initially, we had it tied to an island with an isthmus that was dry for hiking at low tide.  Upon further inspection, we decided we may not be able to retrieve it at high tide.  So, the rest of the crew went to find the trail head while I found a steeper beach to secure the dinghy.

The trail to Lowrie Beach was pretty well grown over and really, really muddy.  I thought I was the smart one because I had my big rubber boots on until I sunk up to my knees in the black, stinky mud.  Connor turned out to be the smart one in his flip flops even though he had to dig them out of the mud a few times.

The hike through the bog and the forest was well worth it though.  Even on a cloudy day, this beach was still so amazing and beautiful.  Time just flies by out here and before we knew it several hours had passed.  We all enjoyed ourselves, the scenery, the roaring and crashing waves, and, most of all, Tanner’s daredevil water stunts in the big waves.  That dog is just plain nuts!  He loves to swim in the biggest crashing waves possible.  We all belly laughed at him for a long time.

Back through the bog and the forest we went, to the beach where our dinghy was anchored.  Just as Val crossed the last fallen log before the dinghy, she gave a bit of a shriek.  I turned to see her holding her hooded sweatshirt and she was just staring at it.  I also heard what sounded like a bit of a “squeaker” from her.  “Hmmm?  That’s peculiar,” I thought.  Just then, her sweatshirt started to smoke!  I thought that even more peculiar.  She was starting to look pretty nervous but I still could not figure out what was happening.  Now her sweatshirt looks like it’s about to burst into flames and it’s starting to make noise!  Suddenly, it dawned on me at the same time she began to tell me what had happened.  She was wearing her sweatshirt around her waist with the air horn in her pocket.  When she sat on the log, it jammed the horn into the canister releasing the gas in her pocket.  The evaporation looked like smoke and the “squeaker” was a sick sort of sound that it’s supposed to make when it’s fully discharged.  We all had a good laugh at that one!

I had set the anchor as high as I could on the beach but it was now out quite a ways out in the water but, thankfully, the wind had blown the dinghy back to us on the beach when we arrived back from our hike.  Actually, there was a pretty good wind blowing through the bay and the white caps were significant for our heavily loaded dinghy.  We only idled but the waves were crashing over the bow and we were all soaked and chilly by the time we motored a half mile or so back to the boat.  The wind must have been blowing outside the bay pretty hard too as the four hurricane mooring buoys are all occupied.  I’m glad we were tied to one!

We fired up the diesel furnace and the genset right away and flipped on the hot water heater for toasty warm showers.  Val started to make a delicious late lunch or early supper; we didn’t care what it was called- we just wanted it!  Salmon nachos and salmon sandwich for me and soup and leftover pork loin and prime rib sandwiches for Connor and Val.  I just can’t get enough fresh fish and seafood.  Val also made hot chocolate and spiked hers and mine with Caramel Baileys, which warmed our innards immediately and made us both quite happy!  Connor found his fix in the whip cream can.

The wind has died and it’s now supper time, even though we just got done cleaning up our dishes.  The furnace feels so good that I really don’t want to leave my comfy, cozy abode to go set the crab trap.  The forecast seems fine the next couple of days so we’re planning on leaving here in the morning to check out San Josef Bay Beach and then make the 20 mile unprotected run to Qautsino Sound with many miles of protected waters to explore and quiet anchorages.  There’s also supposed to be communications and supplies in the little village of Winter Harbour.

All warm and cuddly on the boat, Connor is doing his homework while Val is “reading” a.k.a. snoozing, and both pups are just plain pooped.  I made a batch of tomato basil pesto dough from scratch to bake fresh bread tomorrow and then started a new book, yet another high seas peril story…go figure.  I do think it makes me a better captain, however.  The last of the sun is just breaking through and you know what they say, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight!”  Have a good evening!

Day 5 - Rounding Cape Scott

Day 5 - Friday, August 17, 2012- Sea Otter Cove  (GPS 50.39.82N, 128.20.95W)

We made it!  We are safely tied to a hurricane mooring buoy in Sea Otter Cove, just south of Cape Scott.  We’re heading back South and East now on the outside West coast of Vancouver Island.  It’s wild out here!
Last night, before bed, we asked God to give us a safe crossing or to keep us put.  We asked for His blessing of clear skies and flat seas and a boat that ran perfectly.  During the night, I woke to check the anchor and stepped outside to the most clear beautiful sky…so many brilliant stars and the magnificent Big Dipper taking a scoop out of the Northern Pacific.  Wow!  No fog.

This morning, the alarm went off at 6AM and our great crew was immediately up and at it.  Connor did dog duty and secured the dinghy.  Val got the wet suits, life jackets, and emergency kit all set out in a laundry basket in the v-berth, just in case.  We learned that the hard way.  Many years ago, we had a really frightening attempt at a crossing in Juan DeFuca Strait and were taking massive waves over the bow only to realize all of our life jackets were safely secured outside in an aft hatch...not so smart.  Experience is a good teacher.  While all of that was happening, I was dialing in my charts, hoisting the anchor, and warming the engines.

It turned out be foggy again but not pea-soup thick.  We were hoping and praying it would burn off.  Of course, as we were exiting Bull Harbor, I ran through some kelp and, upon engine inspection, noticed I had sucked a bunch into my sea strainers.  Connor took the helm and shut down one engine while I cleaned it out, then the other.  For those of you that don’t know, Ron gave me a great deal on a 2011 twin engine version of our old boat.  Everything else is nearly identical.  After our lost outdrive experience in 2009, I feel a lot more confident doing a trip like this with twins, although, there are many advantages to a single as well. At any rate, 20 minutes behind schedule and we’re on our way.  We throttled up and got up on plane with barely enough visibility to be comfortable.  There were no other boats on radar and we hadn’t seen any logs…just lots of seaweed.

Soon the swells were coming.  We were crossing Nahwitti Bar and it was getting a bit rough.  We had to throttle back and ride ‘em like a bucking bronco.  Connor turned green and went to his berth and ultimately ended up feeding the fish last night’s salmon salad.  No waves over the bow but the 33 footer was pitching pretty good.  It was still a predictable landing.  I had a little cigar case that decided to leap to its death spilling its guts all over the floor.  Val leaped to the rescue and actually left the floor twice while executing her heroic event.  Oh, the sacrifices she makes.  My fuel burn was terrible as I wasn’t on plane and wasn’t at hull speed either.  I didn’t like that but wanted to beat the changing of the tide.  Soon, the fog was so thick we weren’t comfortable even at 13 knots so we dropped down to 8 knots in thick fog.  While the fuel burn was a lot better, the speed was going to put us further off schedule and I was concerned about the tide changing.  After Nahwitti Bar, the swells went down considerably.  It wasn’t a half an hour later and it was bright enough to get back on plane again.  Now, we’re makin’ progress!

As we turned the corner south at Cape Scott, our ride got pretty decent and the sun was doing its job: burning off the fog.  We really didn’t get to see much until that point.  We decided the weather was good enough to poke our nose into Guise Bay and check out the beach there.  We’re really glad we did!

By the time we picked our way through the kelp and approached the beach, it was getting to be really nice out.  We set the anchor hard in the sand in 15’ on a tide that was supposed to rise another 10’.  I let out 100’ of rode and was confident we were going to stay put.

I decided it was warm enough for shorts but Val kept her jeans on.  Connor launched the dinghy and we were off to hike to the Cape Scott Lighthouse and check out the beaches.  Words cannot describe the wild beauty here and the pictures will only give you a tiny bit of what it was like.

We had a great hike to the lighthouse and had a nice chat with Todd, the operator, who spends his entire year out here except his five weeks of vacation.  After climbing the lighthouse, we hiked back down and all around both Experiment Bight and Guise Bay Beaches.  Remember how much Val hates snakes?  Well, I missed a Golden Globe opportunity when she went freakin’ bzerk screaming at the top of her lungs at a 6” garter snake.  As I lunged to cover my neck from her claws, she jumped on my back and I had to carry her for 20’ past the pit of hell.

Lucky, Tanner, and Connor are all happiest when they are running all out on a beach.  The sand was soft between our toes, although the water was too cold to swim, at least for Val and I.  The dogs don’t mind it and Connor endures it.

We were back on the boat by 1PM and Val made us beautiful prime rib sandwiches.  She feeds the crew really well when we’re cruising!  The weather was perfect and settling down to calm.  We motored out and back into the open ocean and it was very comfortable for the 7 miles over to Sea Otter Cove, where we picked up one of the four hurricane buoys.  All day long, we were the only boat around.  We saw a fishing boat out at sea and a tiny dot on the horizon many miles away.  It’s pretty desolate out here and there’s little or no weather radio reception or cell reception.  I did find comfort in the fact that Todd, the lighthouse operator, does monitor channel 16.
Thank you, Lord, for answering our prayers and blessing us with this day.

Once secured to our mooring buoy, Val and I laid down in the v-berth for some much needed rest after our early morning and intense crossing.  Connor sat out on the back deck and worked on his Bible and Spanish homework.  I think we all like his decision to home school!

I heard the crab, salmon, and halibut calling my name but I was just too tired to answer.  I think I was just so tense from worry about the crossing, I just needed to do nothing but rest for a while.  So, Val made a nice pork loin in the oven and then we played some cards and went to bed early.  It’s a good day when you have to wake up from a nap for dinner and then go to bed early.

Day 4 - Beaver Bay (Port Hardy) to Bull Harbor

Day 4 - Bull Harbor, Hope Island (Written Thursday night, August 16, 2012)

After a long and much needed night of rest in our perfectly calm cove, we awoke to the serenade of thousands of birds and the splashing of hundreds of Cohos all around us as well as seals.  Mr. Whale was back again feeding right in front of our boat.  Val commented that after the previous night of death, this day was filled with so much life.

I tidied up the boat, put the kayak on the roof, made some calls, checked the forecast on the VHF, did a few boat maintenance items, etc. while Val and Connor got out of bed and started fishing.  Val was so fun to watch as she caught two nice fighting Cohos.  Unfortunately, both were wild fish (vs. hatchery fish) and had to be let go.  (Canadian regs…you need to take your attorney with you fishing to know what you can and can’t keep, where, when, etc.)  Oh well, we have plenty in the fridge and freezer from last night.  Tanner jumped overboard three times thinking his job was to retrieve them.

Shortly before noon, we hoisted the anchor in the glorious sunshine pounding through what was left of the fog and made the short run to Port Hardy, where we topped off the fuel and water tanks.  I think I paid the most ever for diesel: $4.67 per gallon…ouch.  At least we are filled with everything we need to venture out into who knows what.  I guess we’ll find out.

Once again, I needed to find an Internet signal to complete some business, so we motored over to the Public Float and ran up to the grocery store/mall where we enjoyed a Subway and found our Internet connection.  By the time we got back to the boat, the wind had kicked up a bit and the bay was pretty choppy.

We were able to keep the boat on plane but the ride was pretty bouncy for about 10 miles but then settled down for the last 10 miles into Bull Harbor.  We did run into fog almost immediately but with the lumps we were taking, the speed was reduced to the point where we could see just far enough ahead to kill any headway should a log pop up.  Our Garmin radar is excellent so we can see boats and land on screen but logs, not so much.  We were IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) for about half an hour.  I’m used to that from our Alaska trip.

Bull Harbor is a well protected harbor and is the launching point to cross Cape Scott.  We’re nestled in our little cove and the fog is hanging all around us.
Nevertheless, we launched the dinghy and found a trail head that lead us through the forest across to the North Shore to a bay called Roller Bay, where the big swells roll in and crash onto the beach. 
 Surprisingly, it was relatively calm but still impressive.  We hiked up and down the beach, while the dogs swam and Connor threw sticks for them. 
As the light was fading, we headed back to the boat picking beautiful wild flowers along the path back to the dinghy.  We now have two beautiful vases of flowers on board.

It’s 10PM, the forecast is for 20 knot NW winds tomorrow morning subsiding tomorrow afternoon, which is the best forecast we’ve seen for this area in a while.  The next weather window appears to be coming on Sunday.  I studied the tides and currents and think we may have a safe shot at it tomorrow morning.  Our plans are to depart here at 6:30AM and catch the slack tide at Cape Scott.  It may be a bit windy but all the tides and currents should offset that.  Tide against wind is a problem but I hope to make the pass before that happens.  If it’s too rough, we’ll come back here and try again on Sunday.

Well, that’s it for today.  I’m not sure when I’ll get another Internet signal so you may not be reading this for several days.  At any rate, you’re getting my perspective tonight, my time.  Good night, friends.