We are working our way home after a second summer in SE Alaska. After enjoying Haida Gwaii (aka the Queen Charlottes) the last part of July, we worked south to Port McNeill to prepare for our final leg, down the remote and rugged west side of Vancouver Island.
Easy day so far, making decent time under sail, motor off! We are once again a sailboat, first time this year. Dave had to remind me about the "finger puppet" when we set the shaft brake. We use the brake to prevent the shaft from turning the transmission without oil, which would burn it up. I made a small glove that fits over the shift lever as a reminder that we need to pulse the engine in reverse to release the brake when we motor again.
Haida Gwaii is now an indistinct smudge on the horizon. Glad we went there. It is a special place, and a piece of rapidly vanishing architectural history, though the proud Haida are actively working to keep their culture alive. As much as we've travelled, there are still amazing places awaiting our discovery.
Winds light overnight, so we motored with the main up. Only a handfull of fishing boats. Hit one log, no apparent damage. We closed on Calvert Island at dawn. I'd heard a radio announcement of a gale coming, so we bagged our planned anchorage at Adams Cove and continued on down the Calvert channels. There is a north channel and an east channel, extending from Pruth Bay, that look like someone was cutting out a serving of the island, the lines are so straight. Leaving Calvert, we crossed Fitz Hugh to the east shore and tucked in at Green Island, well dug in in a protected anchorage in case the gale materializes tonight.
Gale warnings in the strait today, plus we woke to downpour and fog, so we are hanging here in this sheltered anchorage. Dave is working on a Visio diagram of the replumbed fresh water system, while I read books. Tomorrow sounds favorable, so we should be able to jump along.
Better weather today. We woke to sunshine, no fog, light wind, SE then S then SW. We pulled the anchor and raised the main, hoping the benign conditions would hold for a long run, past Egg Island and Cape Caution, all the way to the Walker Group, a small cluster of islets in Queen Charlotte Strait. By 4 pm we again had the hook down in another sheltered anchorage. Strong NW wind forecast for tonight, but we don't care with the anchor well set and plenty of swing room. Saw lots of boat activity today, 2 cruise ships, several tugs with huge barges heading north, fishing vessels trolling and underway, and pleasure craft. Dave says our having anchorages to ourselves is over - this one we are sharing with a large sailboat with kayaking guests.
Dave called Port McNeill and has a reserved spot in North Island Marina, starting Wednesday, plus booked their loaner car to get to the airport. Nice to know that is all arranged. We are only 30 miles away, and may use the meantime to visit Sointula.
This morning we pulled anchor in the current snorting through our Walker Group anchorage. If we'd tucked further out of the channel, we would not have had any. Dave goes below to "gerbil" the anchor chain (knocking it down so it doesn't pyramid and jam on the next anchoring). Just before we broke free, he headed back to the helm so he could turn the boat before the current swept us. Not a problem, just something to discuss and plan for. Out in the strait we ran into a thin blanket of fog, probably no higher than our mast. We could see blue sky above, and the tops of islands, but only murky grey all around. Dave manned the radar, with sensitivity set high enough to warn me about paddling birds! I blasted the airhorn a couple times. Bet they don't lay eggs this year.
The fog lifted and we carried on into Port McNeill where we grabbed a slip at the municipal dock and luxuriated in shoreside amenities. Wifi! Showers! Laundry (3 loads). And a grocery store, all within walking distance. Plus we got to offload 4 bags of garbage. These things sound prosaic, but I can tell you it feels heavenly. Plus we are tied to a secure dock for strong NW winds forecast for tonight.
Tomorrow is a play day. We will take the foot ferry to Alert Bay, and maybe also to Sointula.
Caught the 8:40 am ferry, a short walk away, to Alert Bay, once home to a 1000-boat fishing fleet, today a quiet First Nations community. We came to visit U'mista, a longhouse replica housing a fantastic museum. A court case was won, mandating the return of Potlatch regalia, confiscated in the early 1900s when potlatches were ruled illegal in an effort to force assimilation. The masks, rattles, weavings and robes ended up in museums around the world, and in private collections. as they were returned, they were housed in two collections.
It's an amazing colection, beautifully displayed and annotated, and very meaningful to us after the progress of our education in Alaska and Haida Gwaii. No photos are permitted of the collection. The items are considered sacred. An arson in 2012 singed the building and damaged some masks, now being cleaned but not restored, as the fire is regarded as part of their history. At the museum a class was underway to teach women and girls how to weave cedar bark. On the way back to the ferry we met a man stripping bark from long strips, prepping the cedar for weaving. He asked if we'd visited the cemetary with its family crests on the graves. Dang, we had not known, and now the ferry was pulling in.
We catch the ferry from Port McNeill to Alert Bay.
Wecome signage at Alert Bay, today a Native town.
This bird-man-sun figure is one of five carvings on the way to U'mista.
From the ferry to the museum is a pleasant shoreline walk, partly boardwalk, with 5 rest shelters along the way.
Alert Bay was home to a huge fishing fleet, and also to a large "residence" school. The purpose of the residence school was to eradicate the Haida culture through assimilation.
A rower crosses the bay, ferry in the background.
Another nice killer whale totem
with the traditional face in the blowhole.
Today, Alert Bay is home to U'mista, a fascinating museum housed in this longhouse.
The museum houses an important collection of Potlatch regalia, stolen but now returned.
Traditonal carved house panels front the museum entrance.
This totem is a rarity, only displayed indoors so paint is original.
The potlatch regalia collection is considered sacred, so photographs are not permitted, though you can get a glimpse from the umista website. Especially fascinating were masks that opened, with a bird or animal face, transforming to a human face and back, reflecting the connections between man and the natural world. Dance aprons were decorated with puffin beaks to make noise. A beautiful film in the gallery connected the items to a present day potlatch held at the Alert Bay Big House, showing the regalia in use.
Potlatches were made illegal in Canada from 1885 to 1951, but still held until the 1920s when a new governor decided to enforce the ban, arresting and jailing leaders until they surrendered their regalia - potlatch masks, costumes and instruments. These items were sent to museums and private collections, and are still being recovered and restored. /p>
We landed with a ricochet crash at the Port McNeill dock (apparently normal) then were told at the ticket booth we should have just stayed on the ferry and were handed a pass to reboard fpr Sointula.
We seem to have landed at Easter Island.
Landing at Sointula, we walked north along the road past tidy houses with interesting driftwood fences. This community was settled by Finns when Finland was still part of Russia, and there is still a tiny remnant of its socialist past in the co-op store and museum exhibits. We found the Burger Barn at the marina and enjoyed fish and chips and good onion rings, then strolled back in time to catch the ferry home. Fun day.
We like this decrepit boatshed.
Inside is a ship on the ways and a couple partly-built skiffs.
Baraka is tucked in among the big boys.
Yesterday we used North Island Marina's loaner van to run up to the Port Hardy airport in time for Dave's 6:40 am flight. He is off to Seattle for hos 50th high school reunion for a couple days. I am staying with the boat, getting caught up on small chores that never seem to get done when we are underway.
Dave had a great visit home, to attend his reunion, plus have a chance to see siblings, cousins, and son! He got back yesterday evening. Now we are planning the next leg.
We will leave tomorrow morning to head north to Bull Harbor on Hope Island, in preparation for jumping down the exposed outside of Vancouver Island. To get to Bull we must work up the Golitas Channel against northwest winds. Right now there are extreme tides, which mean strong currents. We want to ride the ebbs and sit out the floods, so our strategy tomorrow will be to leave here at first light, 6 am, ride the ebb to slack water, anchor at Port Hardy during the flood, and then leave at 4 pm to ride the second ebb to Bull Harbor. The ebbs will run as much as 3.4 knots at max, a big boost, but it will be a sloppy ride against the wind. We should arrive Bull Harbor well before 9 pm sunset. At least that's the plan...
The next day we will cross the Nawiti Bar and round Cape Scott to Sea Otter Cove, conditions permitting.
Our plans includes a return to some places we've visited before in Baraka on our shakedown cruise in 2003: Sea Otter Cove, Winter Harbor, Tofino, Ucluelet, Bamfield, plus a lot of remote anchorages, including the Bunsbys, and "Baraka Rock" where we scarfed off a chuck of fiberglass. Back in 2003 we had a handheld hiker's GPS and paper charts. Today we have very good chartplotting programs on computer and iPads, a huge improvement in accurate navigation. Though west coast charts do warn of uncharted rocks... We also have a sensitive radar, and expect some fog.
We may have sporadic cell coverage, but maybe no internet, and therefore no web updates, until late August.