Baidarka, with authors Don and Réanne Douglass and John Leone----local boating instructor--as first mate, will leave Anacortes May 16, 2001 for it annual research expedition to British Columbia and Alaska.
Highlights of this year’s trip will include a visit behind Nakwakto Rapids in search of a recently reported rock art site, to Glacier Bay in the second week of June to produce a video with some French friends, and to spend the month of August circumnavigating both Graham and Moresby islands in the Queen Charlottes.
Most of the 80-mile-long west coast of Moresby Island is unsurveyed and uncharted; it is the largest remaining uncharted coastline in B.C. We expect to document routes into and possible anchor sites for more than a dozen inlets, harbors and coves, as well as noting major hazards to navigation. Many of these places have no name. We have been working with Neil Carey of Sandspit and others to develop proper names for them and to document any local knowledge that is available or that we can uncover. Author Kevin Monahan will join us for part of this voyage.
The data Baidarka collects (100 new pages or more) will be published in the Second Edition of Exploring the North Coast of B.C. to be introduced at the Seattle and Vancouver Boat Shows in early 2002.
Boaters are encouraged to give Baidarka a call on VHF if they hear us; we are always up to a rendezvous and taking a photo or two with friends and clients. Since we do not have satellite communication yet and we will be out of cell phone range most of the summer, our website updates may be few and far between.
Baidarka will return to Anacortes the second week of September. Plan on seeing our slide shows at the Seattle Boat Show in January and call us if you would like to arrange a special presentation for your club or organization.
Note: In February of this year, Baidarka was hit by a rogue wave in Rosario Strait during a winter storm. Réanne planted her face in the pilothouse door and her chin had to be stitched up. We re-learned some important lessons about preparedness from this accident. [See our article in an upcoming edition of Northwest Yachting.]
Baidarka was scheduled to leave Anacortes early morning May 16, but because forecasts predicted a southeast gale with winds of up to 70 mph to begin May 15 at 2000 hours, we left at 14:00 hours that day. We visited with friends on Orcas Island for several hours before seeking shelter in Blind Bay on Shaw Island. We anchored in 3 fathoms, let out 225 feet of chain and set double snubbers, ready for the blow. That night the barometer fell 9 millibars, but winds never exceeded 30 mph.
May 16: We left early AM to continue cross Haro Strait which we crossed without a problem to Port Sidney Marina, BC, where we cleared customs and tied up at 1000 hours. We did our usual provisioning, Don had a business meeting, then we went out to dinner with Kevin and Nancy Monahan at Dock 503. The next day, a smooth trip took us to Nanaimo through Samson Narrows, Trincomalia Channel, and Dodd Narrows which we took on a flood at 6 knots. We had dinner with friends at Zougla Restaurant. From now on, dinner would be on the Baidarka’s galley slave. We left at 0515 hours. We decided to continue past Comox and Campbell River to Seymour Narrows which we were able to transit on a 7 knot ebb with minimal turbulence. Gale force winds were predicted for Johnstone Strait the next day, so we continued to Port Neville, the last hour under radar, where we tied up at 2254. We spent Saturday, May 20, in Neville visiting with our friends on both sides of the inlet, and watching the white caps file down Johnstone Strait all day. Our good friend and crew John Leone and Don spent all afternoon re-exploring Port Neville to the head of the inlet in the dinghy, looking for additional petroglyphs without success. They returned to Baidarka soaked, but exhilarated with their outing and happy to join our friends for a pot roast dinner.
May 20: Away from Port Neville dock at 0545 and North bound in a now-placid Johnstone Strait. We ran for Blunden Harbour, which we had planned to visit briefly just to show it to John. However, the guys were so intrigued by Bradley Lagoon to the NE of Blunden that we decided to take an exploration day. Several other boats were anchored in the harbor. Lou and Geoff Thompson on Pacific High invited us for cocktails. Geoff decided he’d like to accompany the guys which he did Monday the 21st for most of the day. They explored and sounded the uncharted lagoon. The results will be printed in our new edition of the Exploring the North Coast of British Columbia.
May 21: We weighed anchor at 1430 and are now headed for Belize Inlet via Nakwakto Rapids.
Update as of 27 June 2001.
Our last communication was by cell phone to our web master, Herb Nickles on May 21 as we were leaving Blunden Harbour. We have worked from dawn to dusk, exploring and documenting since that time and apologize to our readers for not having been able to update our log until now. We include just a few highlights of our voyage northward to Glacier Bay and Sitka. (We resume from May 21.)
We anchored in Allison Harbour and crossed Nakwakto Rapids the next day at slack, circling Tremble Island several time, and noticing that the Baidarka sign nailed to a tree is almost entirely faded out. (Maybe next year we can repaint it.) Anton and Tilly of Pacific Sunrise came alongside in the their dinghy and we had a nice visit.We spent Tuesday, May 22, in Belize Inlet—a place we consider a bastion of solitude. While Don and John were exploring Village Cove, they came across some huge old-growth cedar stumps and were excited to discover a living cedar that measured at least 13 feet in diameter and several hundred feet in height. Don wondered if this could be one of the largest of such trees remaining in B.C. We looked for additional pictographs (see Chapter 1 Exploring the North Coast of British Columbia for previously sighted pictographs) and discovered just a crude splash of color, too worn to be discernable.At the outlet of Pack Lake, in Strachan Bay we met Charlie Chilson—one of two pioneers in this vast complex of inlets and lagoons—who has lived in Belize Inlet since he was twelve years old when his family moved to the inlet to do rigging for a timber company. Having lived there for 43 years, Charlie is a storehouse of knowledge about the region.
On May 23, we timed our departure through Nakwakto at ebb tide and headed down Slingsby Channel, deploying the stabilizers for our crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound. Small craft to near-gale warnings had been issued that day, discouraging most cruising boats from crossing and sound, and by mid-afternoon the wind had picked up to 30 knots. We decided to turn in to Rivers Inlet to get out of the chop, and by 1900 hours we were calmly tied up at Finn Bay Retreat where Rene and Pete treated us to their own home brew in front of a warming fire under their picnic house. By the time you read this, their new shower facilities should be operational.
May 24: We left the float at Finn Bay at 0555 hours and headed north through Fitz Hugh Sound and Fisher Channel to Ocean Falls where we tied up by 1520, in time to stretch our legs, visit with local friends and visiting boaters (including Lyle and Judie Roberts on M/V Cyndyn). John offered to take the captain and the cook to a Salisbury steak supper at the café in the lodge run by Phyllis Hooker.Jo-Ann and Don, owners of the Shack (ice cream, homemade bread, etc.) on the public float, were still renovating their place in time for the season's opening, June 15. Their three young daughters who are experts at "de-quilling" porcupines for jewelry-making had not yet arrived. (Ask to see their homemade porcupine-dequilling "machine"—it's a hoot!)
May 25: From Ocean Falls, we set out through Gunboat Passage to Shearwater for breakfast, then on to Bella Bella to provision, before continuing through Seaforth Channel, Reid Passage, Perceval Narrows and Mathieson Channel to Rescue Bay at the east end of Jackson Passage where we dropped the hook for the night. Aside from one local fishing boat—the first small vessel we'd seen since leaving Seaforth Channel—we were now off the "beaten path" and alone.
May 26: Kynoch Inlet in Fiordland was our next destination. The quiet and lack of traffic in this park create an intimacy that we find lacking in Misty Fiords. We couldn't believe that there were so few pleasure craft visiting this area—we saw just one small tour boat later in Finlayson Channel during the entire day. The weather cooperated beautifully, sending clouds that weft their way over the mountains and parted from time to time, allowing small patches of sun to break through. While Don and John braved the entrance to Culpepper Lagoon (6- to 8-knot current in the narrows) by dinghy to take soundings, Réanne stood off the head of Kynoch Inlet for several hours to await slack water to take Baidarka safely into the lagoon. A lively discussion had preceded the dinghy's venture into the lagoon.
The captain DCD to RHD: "Don't you want to take Baidarka through now? It'll be really exciting."
"No! It's foolish to risk running the rapids just to say 'it can be done.'"
At that point, the narrows resembled Whirlpool Rapids, only much narrower.
"Do you want John and me to take the dinghy through first?"
"Yes, but wear your life vests."
As the two of them began lowering the dinghy from the upper deck I went below to retrieve an additional life vest. Suddenly the sonar alarm went off. I rushed back up to the pilothouse and read 1.1 (fathoms). "Hang on!" I yelled out the door, as I jammed the throttle forward. The rising flood current had carried us part way up the river which, moments before had been full of stumps.
By 1520, the men had surveyed the lagoon and the tide had risen enough for Baidarka to proceed through the narrows and to the end of the lagoon where we had views of beautiful snow-covered massifs on the east side of Kynoch Inlet. Don and John made it up the creek a mile or more and found bear bones in a beautiful meadow. At 2100 hours we anchored in Windy Bay, Sheep Passage, where the cook flaked out, exhausted, leaving the men to their own resources for a European-hour supper.
May 27. We weighed anchor at 0545 and transited Sheep Passage, then Heikish Narrows where we photographed an old steel shipwreck in Carter Bay and viewed the site of the damage created by a new NOAA ship that lost control in the narrows last summer and rammed the eastern shore.As we passed Butedale we shook our heads at the deterioration—it looks worse than ever. A sign now reads: "Private property. . . escort only."Our anchorage for the night: Kumealon.
May 28 through May 30. Prince Rupert Yacht Club The captain gave shore leave to the crew for reprovisioning, visiting with friends, laundry runs and a little relaxation while Don met with port authorities and local businessmen.
We headed across Dixon Entrance, Thursday, May 31, deploying the stabilizers west of Ryan Point in 25-knot southeast winds and 3- to 4-foot seas. We followed the mainland shore route that Don has been championing which reduces exposure to the often uncomfortable conditions in Dixon Entrance. As we passed Tree Point the winds veered to southwest and the seas increased to 6 feet. We were happy to set anchor in Inner Foggy Bay by 1712 hours and watch a black bear on shore as we enjoyed popcorn and wine coolers with local boaters who were waiting for better weather. The next day we weighed anchor early in the morning and we tied up at City Floats in Ketchikan by noon, giving us time to run some errands. Réanne had a nice visit with Holly Churchill—well-known Haida basketmaker who was demonstrating her skills at the Main Street Gallery.That evening we enjoyed a round of Spruce beer provided by Ketchikan Brewing Company (now a full-fledged bar), before heading to a Mexican restaurant with our friends Hunter and Debbie Davis. The Davis' took early retirement from the Army and headed north to Alaska in their Flicka sailboat, thinking that might just be the beginning of a round-the-world voyage. When they arrived in Ketchikan, they liked it so much they've been there for the past three years and are very much involved in civic affairs.
June 2: On our way north out of Ketchikan we tucked into Meyers Chuck, along with S/Vessels Raven and xx. We're happy to report that—with Linda and Art Forbes' move to Sitka and the closing of Linda's gallery (first noted in our Exploring the Inside Passage to Alaska)—a new co-operative gallery, owned and operated by the community has been opened. The gallery features woven baskets, handmade beadwork, carvings, quilts, stained glass and homemade soaps and jams–all by artists and artisans of the local region. (For news about Linda Forbes new gallery in Sitka, see entry for June 20.)We proceeded to Kindergarten Bay for our night's anchorage. Just west of Steamer Bay, we were shocked by the sound of our sonar alarm. We had been crossing an area that showed plenty of depth on the chart, but the Furuno went off at 4 fathoms on a 2-fathom tide. Don jammed the throttle into reverse, nearly sending John and Réanne flying. This uncharted underwater rock is located at 56°10.258'N, 132°43.894'W (Ref: Chart 117382).We entered the north side of Kindergarten Bay and found the bottom poorly charted and irregular. Our anchor held for the night, but we wouldn't recommend this anchorage as an all-weather site. Even the though local fishermen use it frequently, we recommend Quiet Cove 10 miles to the northeast and much prefer it to Kindergarten. (Use caution if you enter Kindergarten Bay!)
Sunday, June 3: More than a dozen white-sided dolphins played in our bow wake off Steamer Point for over 15 minutes, and we did our usual cheering and clapping to their act. Shortly afterward we watched two groups of orcas feeding and sighted over a dozen loons—the first we'd seen this season. In Wrangell, where we tied up at City Float for the afternoon, we were happy to see the new harbormaster's office and learn of the city's expansion plans for the harbor. Over a hundred new slips are planned for the harbor. In the years we've been cruising to Alaska, Wrangell has always welcomed pleasure craft, but conditions have not been easy. Rafting, sometimes two to three deep with fishing or other commercial boats, has often been necessary. With the closing of the Canadian gold operation and the decrease in fishing, the harbor has already begun to improve its facilities for pleasure craft.After leaving Wrangell, we continued to Deception Point Cove at the south end of Wrangell Narrows where we dropped anchor at 1946 hours.
June 4: We waited till 0930 before weighing anchor to profit from a flood going north in Wrangell Narrows, meeting an ebb in the northern portion which allowed us to make good time for a 1235 arrival in Petersburg, North Harbor. The wind was brisk as we docked and a crusty fisherman in the neighboring slip helped us tie up and laughed at all our spring lines. "Pardon me, but I see all the yachts come in with expensive lines and all you need is a stern and bow line . . . with the stern line, you're not going anywhere."We used our spring lines anyway. Later he mentioned John aside and asked what kind of research we do. "Why do they have to write a book?" he asked John. "Don't yachties have a fathometer?"As we got acquainted, we began to appreciate his crustiness and when Réanne backed out of the slip the next day, he grinned and said, "Oh, oh, a woman driver."
We left Petersburg June 5 and headed across Frederick Sound, hoping to get far enough into Le Conte Bay to see the glacier. Within an hour (1100) we were approaching the bar and began our circuitous route through icebergs. The current was running about 4 knots and we felt as if we were running a river. The bergs were a constant pique to our imagination. "That one looks like a swan . . . There's one that looks like a whale . . . Hey, look at that one—it's as big as a city block!" And so forth. The blue and green and turquoise icebergs, of course, were a stunning sight. At 1230 we left the east side of Le Conte bar and headed back out into Frederick Sound to Cape Fanshaw and into Cleveland Passage where we anchored for the night.After we had finished our dinner of Petersburg prawns, the fishing vessel Shemya (named after one of the Aleutian Islands) came in to anchor. Brooks Hollern, the skipper, and Aaron Cummins came aside Baidarka, each with a big smile on his face. "We caught a 300-pound halibut a while ago," Brooks said, inviting us to come aboard and see the fish in his hold. It was the largest we've ever seen and we all had to take snapshots.
June 6: Shortly after we weighed anchor Don and John decided they wanted to explore an island in the westernmost of the Roberts Islets. Réanne stood off in Baidarka with the engine running while the two guys took the dinghy to the sandy shore and disappeared over the hill of the islet. About 45 minutes later, they reappeared just as the dinghy floated away. The two stranded sailors were finally rescued, and the whole story from Réanne's point of view will be told in a later publication.John told Réanne: "We're all sworn to secrecy. Right?"
"Wrong. I plan to tell all."
The stranding just moistened their appetite for adventure and, they set off again in the dink to explore the backchuck of Port Houghton. Again, Réanne circled around, trying to remain in deep water—not easy with a 3-knot rising flood and increasing wind coming down the inlet. She had to move the boat every 5 to 10 minutes to keep from getting swept into shallow water. Finally, the guys headed back out and toward Baidarka. It was pouring rain by then. The wind was still strong and it was obvious that the two guys were soaked. They motioned Réanne to bring Baidarka closer—making another story to tell.We left the head of Port Houghton and headed back to anchor in Sandborn Canal where Sunny and Bob from Raven joined us for popcorn and a glass of Don's favorite Canadian port.
Thursday, June 7, we were up and away at 0620 and off for another day of exploration inside Thistle Ledge. The weather was sunny and warm and the waters were calm. We anchored inside the ledge and spent the rest of the day walking the beach and exploring the various islets and channels in the vicinity. We documented what we think will be a good alternative anchor site. The beach is lined with grassy shores and vertical slate formations that resemble decaying boat frames. Looking through the binoculars from Baidarka before we went ashore, we were all sure we'd discovered the hull of a gigantic shipwreck. Not so.After we had completed our exploring, Don stripped down and got a hair and beard trim. Before his barber had finished her job it started to rain, with the sun still beaming brightly, causing a hasty retreat to put clothes back on.
Friday, June 8. At 0455 in the high-latitude summer, 0-dark-hundred does not apply and it's much easier to rise and weight anchor than it is in winter! In clear, calm weather, we headed to Tracy Arm where to rendezvous with Raven and M/V Ghost Rider (both had anchored inside Tracy Arm Cove) for our sortie up the arm to view the glaciers. Outside the entrance bar dolphins followed our bow wake, then we sighted two whales feeding in the turbulence over the bar.The three boats proceeded up Tracy Arm and were fortunate to sight a mother bear and two cubs feeding on grasses along shore, and two mountain goats high above on the vertical granite face. As we approached the convergence of the inlets to South Sawyer and North Sawyer glaciers, we were surrounded by floating bergs and doubted that we'd make it all the way. The entrance to South Sawyer was blocked, but by carefully maneuvering we made it all the way to North Sawyer Glacier. On our last visit to Tracy Arm, North Sawyer appeared to have retreated. However, this year—at high tide—it was definitely a tidewater glacier and, as the sun warmed the ice, we witnessed several good demonstrations of calving that sent undulating waves giving us a hobby-horse ride for a few minutes. The three boats bobbed quietly in front of the glacier, hypnotized by the translucent beauty of the ice and the quiet.We motored out of Tracy Arm just as the Juneau-based tour boats began to reach the head of the inlet, continued up Stevens Passage to Taku Harbor where we tied up at the public float for the night and had to don shorts for the first time in four weeks. The party atmosphere at the dock was a decided contrast to the quiet of Tracy Arm and, between rounds of drinks and hors d'oeuvre, it was 2200 hours before we had supper.
June 9: Underway by 0515 and tied up at Auke Bay by 1050. We spent the day running errands and reprovisioning (three hours) and stowing the food (two hours), just in time for Don, John and me to go to TexMex in Juneau with our son-in-law, Jeff Mach. June 10: Change of crew. We said good-bye to John Leone—who had served as first mate par excellence for four weeks—and our friends, Jean and Geneviève Doudeau from Les Deux Alpes, France came aboard. J & G had been with us on a previous trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands and gave us a professional-quality video of the trip. They were loaded with camera and video equipment again and soon Jean was out filming life on the floats.
June 11: Before our departure for Swanson Harbor, Greg Cook, Juneau lawyer and, like Réanne, Pomona College alum and Francophile, knocked on the hull at 0500 (the only time he could meet with us). He spoke French with J & G and we visited for over an hour before we left the dock. By lunchtime, we were tied up at the Swanson Harbor float and had the rest of the day for relaxation.June 12: As we left Swanson Harbor dolphins greeted us in Icy Strait, giving Jean his first on-the-seas occasion to film wildlife. We called at Hoonah for several hours to talk with the harbormaster and gather updated information and Jean bought us a 15-lb. salmon at the fish plant. Then we were on to Flynn Bay where we anchored in calm waters by late afternoon and found good holding. Southeast winds had been predicted, so we figured Flynn Bay would be a better choice than our usual Pleasant Island anchor site. After we anchored, J, G & Réanne spent several hours carving up the salmon—the skipper doesn't "do" fish—and, for three non-fishermen, it was a challenge.
We checked into Bartlett Cove in Glacier Bay, June 13, for our orientation, then headed north to South Fingers Cove where we tucked in to the northwest corner and anchored. June 14, we motored north to view Lamplugh Glacier, then back to Reid Inlet and, for the first time, anchored off the front of Reid Glacier since it is only a tidewater glacier at high water. As we were finishing dinner—poisson cru, courtesy of Geneviève—we heard a tremendous noise and looked out to see the center portion of the glacier face cracking off. After several more good cracks, Baidarka was surrounded by ice and during the night we'd hear a thump every so often as a small berg would brush the side of the hull. June 15: Visit to Margerie and Grand Pacific glaciers, a dicey approach through myriad floating bergs. As we were standing off Margerie Glacier having lunch the skipper of one of the tour boats called us on Channel 16 and said someone wanted to say hello. The voice of Tom Burke came over VHF and we could see Gloria, in a bright red hat waving from the upper deck of "Spirit of Adventure." (Tom and Gloria of LeConner, WA have a 32-foot Nordic Tug, Carousel, and crewed for us when we had our first Baidarka.) That night we anchored in North Sandy Cove and by late evening there were four others boats anchored in the cove—one large vessel with more power than brains came in at 5 knots, sending setting off waves around the entire cove and rocking Baidarka so much that our dinner plates began to roll around the galley counter. This is not our favorite style of boating etiquette, as our readers know, and Réanne learned some new French slang appropriate for the skipper.From North Sandy Cove, June 16, we went to Berg Bay in time to cross the bar on high tide and do a survey of the bay which is a lovely kayakers' paradise. From there, we left the main part of Glacier Bay and headed to Fern Bay which Don and Jean explored in the dinghy, discovering that, north of the spit, it's not at all as charted. They had an unexpected "encounter" with a grizzly that ran across the half-mile-long mud flat in under two minutes trying to cross before the tide inundated everything.June 17: A visit to Elfin Cove, then down Lisanski Strait to Piehle Passage where we avoided six miles of outside waters. We entered Imperial Passage and took the route through Surveyor and Ogden passages, anchoring in a new spot off Maud Point which we now call Maud Point Cove.
June 18: Because gale warnings were being broadcast, we decided to forego anchoring behind Khaz Point and head instead to Kalinin Bay where we had a layover day June 19 before continuing on to Sitka. (We found another uncharted rock southwest of Khaz Point, so give the foul area on Chart 17322 more room than might be indicated.)June 20-22 were "tourist" days for our French friends while we readied Baidarka to leave her in Sitka while we returned to Anacortes for three weeks.
Note: July 20 we will resume our trip southward to the Queen Charlotte Islands and our major research effort of this year. We pick up Francis (Frank) Caldwell for a trip around Graham Island; later, at Sandspit, we have a change of crew and will be joined by Kevin Monahan for our circumnavigation of South Moresby Island. Since we will be out of cell phone range most of the rest of the summer, this will be probably be our last log entry.