Mar and Gar's Adventures

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Port Hardy

July 20th… tonight will be our third night in Port Hardy. We are leaving in the morning for Blunden probably. The winds are predicted to start picking up tomorrow and I don’t want to be out in the Queen Charlotte Straits if it is too windy. It is only about 14 miles to Blunden but it can be an easy 14 miles or pure torture.

We have had a great time in Port Hardy. We were very lucky to get a reservation at the marina. There had been a cancellation, otherwise we never would have come here. We travelled most of the way in fog on Tuesday and just inside the bay we decided to fish some while the sun burned off the fog.
Within a couple minutes Garry had caught about a 8 to 10 pound coho (silver). He caught 2 other small ones that we let go and then headed in to the marina.

Just after we tied up we saw a boat across the dock from us with a Des Moines Yacht Club burgee but I didn’t recognize the boat or boat name. Turns out it belongs to club member Jim Davis. He is out for a few months. He is taking a few friends at a time up fishing further north near Shearwater. They had just got back and were getting ready to get their very successful catch up to the local packing and processing place. We had a fun time getting to know Jim and his friends Gary and Eric that night. They were going to pick up their fish in the morning and drive home to Des Moines ….about a 12 hour trip including ferries. Jim left his boat here and will be back in a week or so with a couple more friends and do it all over again. Eventually, his last group of friends will go around Vancouver Island with him and fish the west side as he brings the boat back to Des Moines.

Our friends, Gord and Marilyn, have sold their home here and are having a home built north of Nanaimo. Gord stopped by for an hour Tuesday to chat and then yesterday they both came down for a nice visit. They are going through what we did last fall….. pack, pack, sell, sell, donate, donate, junk, junk. They were also lucky like us that the new owners wanted to keep a lot of the furnishings. They are downsizing since they also bought a place in Mesa Arizona last year and will spend 6 months a year there. We were really glad to share some celebratory champagne with them.

There is little room at Port Hardy for large boats. The marina we are at can hold about six to eight. Most of the slips are for smaller fishing boats and guide boats. There is a government dock right by here and there are a couple large boats there but most are commercial fishing boats. Of the seven large boats here at these two places, four (including us) are Westbay Sonships. We are the smallest. The others are all 6 feet longer. One is a boat we see here almost every year.

Will catch up with you down the way.


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Peaceful Friendly Sointula

We are at the Sointula marina on Malcolm Island. It was a short hop of about 4 miles yesterday. I know I wrote about Sointula before but I will do brief recap. In the early 1900s a group of Finns from Vancouver came here to get away from oppression working in the coal mines. The name Sointula means “place of harmony”. The goal was to create a society where property was communal. Everyone shared. Everyone participated. They formed a foundry, a brickyard, sawmill, and blacksmith shop. They believed in “Sound body, sound mind”. They had regular exercise sessions, gymnastic programs, music instruction, concerts, drama productions. Unfortunately there were leadership issues and eventually assets were sold back to the bank and the land returned to the government of British Columbia. Many purchased their own land and fishing and hand logging became the industries. In 1909 the Sointula Cooperative Store Association was formed as is the oldest running co-op in British Columbia. It is a great store that is a grocery store and a variety store, and a great place to meet locals and learn the local gossip and news. There is a ferry to Pt. McNeill and we met boaters in Pt. McNeill who take ferry to Sointula for the day.
I love walking up the long dock to shore and hearing roosters crowing and sheep baaaahh-ing. At the marina you can hope on pink bikes and head the 2 km to town and beyond. If you get off the ferry you can check out and use the green bikes. Yesterday Garry and I biked into town and discovered the Co-op is closed on Sundays and Mondays, but we really don’t need anything. The Upper Crust Bakery was open and we bought a couple pastries to fuel us for some more biking. It was so beautiful and peaceful. The bikes are one speed, pedal brakes and big wide handles. It was a blast. Many residents and businesses take older bikes and turn them into works of art, many with their baskets turned into flower pots. People wave as the drive past you. I stopped to ask a lady working in her garden about a particular plant and we the nicest visit. I saw her again today when we biked back to the bakery to get a couple more things.  

I took pictures yesterday but they are on my phone so will post those separately rather than try to move them to the iPad. If the wifi was strong enough they would sync over but it is a bit too slow.

Tomorrow we are heading to Port Hardy for a couple days. Our friends, Gord and Marilyn, have sold their beautiful home there and will be gone by the 28th so we want a last visit with them in Pt. Hardy. I know we will see them elsewhere but this is something we were hoping we could do. I called and was able to get reservations in the marina there which is not always possible and they wind predictions sound like it should be a nice couple hours up there tomorrow.


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Update from Port McNeill

Well, there is lots to catch up on. It is Saturday the 15th and we are in Port McNeill. This was not the itinerary we were planning on. Port McNeill was to come later, but I came down with a medical issue and needed a doctor and that was the closest place with a medical clinic. We got here Thursday and we’re fortunate to get moorage. The clinic worked me in late in the afternoon and now I am very good antibiotics and doing much better. The clinic was very small but very professional and friendly. Cost me $100 because we were from the States. We are staying until tomorrow just to make sure that I continue on the right track.

That brings me to expand on things like medical issues. It is important to know where there might be help and how to get there. In a real emergency you call the Canadian Coast Guard and they send a boat. There are always water taxis if you are in an area where you can get one. We knew on Monday that I might need a doctor so Port McNeill was in the back of our minds. The wind and water gods were in our favor in the Johnstone Straits so that it a much easier trip on Thursday.

So what went on during those days in between? When we left Denham Bay was cruised up(down?) Cordero Channel on our way to Loughborough Inlet. We passed the old Cordero Lodge. The placed had been severely vandalized last winter the the new owner passed away soon after that. We were pleased to see that most things had been stabilized. We didn’t see anyone there but it looked like it was not abandoned.

We spent two nights in Loughborough Inlet. We got some really nice prawns. They were not super plentiful because the commercial prawners had recently been there but the ones we got were huge. A couple nice meals, for sure.

After that we spent a night anchored in Forward Harbor. We tried for crab but got nothing but a couple females. Thursday morning Garry was getting ready to go pull the trap when he said, oh oh, we have a problem. He had loosely tied the boat line and went in to get the key to the motor and the dinghy came loose and drifted away. He was going to pull anchor and go after it but I hadn’t had enough coffee yet to be awake so I said I would swim and go get it. You might ask why Garry didn’t but he has that ear condition and if one drop of water got in his ear he would be the one needing a doctor. Anyway, in I go and boy, was that water cold!! But I made it…. with the key…. and managed to climb in from the back and rescue the dinghy!!

We continue to meet some really nice people along this trip. Sometimes we finally meet people on a boat that we have heard on the VHF radio for years. That happened here when we tied up next to Reel Action. Really nice people out of Vancouver. Sounds like we may keep running into them over the next several weeks.

So you are caught up for now.. more later.


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Denham Bay

Thursday night was a really fun night over at the logging camp at Quatam River in Ramsay Arm. There were the 3 blasting/road guys- Gator (Kyle), Bob, Bill, water taxi Frank, and cook Anthony. We had a nice dinner of jerk chicken, salad and other good stuff. Lots of logging and blasting stories were swapped. It was an early night because they all get up at 4:30.  
Here is some advertising… Franks’s wife has a home business called Morning Mist Soaps. Check it out at http://www.morningmist.com. Anthony has a business called Dirty Jerk for his jerk spices. I think he is in business with his brother. Check him out at http://www.dirtyjerk.ca.

Friday morning we left Ramsay Arm and headed to Denham Bay. Our boat started vibrating badly about 30 minutes into the trip. We had no idea what was going on. We hadn’t hit anything. Garry put the engines in hard reverse a couple times and that helped some. We found an ok speed and decided to figure it out at Denham Bay.  

Peter has added additional dock space at Denham Bay and it looks really nice. Their grounds are so pretty and peaceful. They were expecting a few boats and some of those people were staying in the cabins. It was a really fun group of people. One of the boats has a name that would for us. Neverhome. Boy, that is the truth.

Peter and Sarah know pretty much everything going on around here and who everyone is so we are slowly getting it all straight in our minds. She needed to go to Big Bay to pick up groceries so I went along for the ride and she took me past some places that I had only seen from a distance. It is really a fascinating area. There is everything from squatters on islands to mega-millionaires vacation homes and resorts. On one hand you see older small aluminum boats and on the other hand yachts well over 100 feet frequently. Somehow it all seems to work. Sarah showed me a large John Deere colored barge behind Dent Island and told me it was their alternative power plant for Dent Island Resort. There is a large paddle wheel that spins with the strong currents and magically generates power. It is a much cleaner way to generate electricity than burning diesel fuel in a generator.  

Saturday Peter dove down with a mask and snorkel to try to see if he could see anything wrong with our right prop. He saw lots of what looked like prawn line all wrapped around it and it would need a diver to go down and cut it off. The water temp was only 50 degrees and just to cold to be in the water too long. A diver could get it done in no time. After a few phone calls Peter found that there were divers at the Dent Island power barge doing repairs and were willing to come over. It was really fascinating. They arrived all geared up. The diver had one of those deep sea outfits and a camera. We got to go I their dive boat and watch him on the monitor and listen as he talked to the guys in the boat. It took him about 2 minutes to cut all the line away and then he did a thorough check of everything else under our boat. It cost $400 Canadian but with the current exchange rate it was closer to $300 U.S. It was worth every penny and really interesting to watch. A huge thank you to the 4 guys from Fraser Burrard Diving Ltd!!

Also on Saturday night Sarah decided they would fire up there outdoor pizza oven. She used to be the pastry chef at Dent Island Lodge so she knows her pastries and dough. She made a bunch of individual pizza thin crusts then everyone staying here, cabins and boats, brought their own toppings. Peter baked them for us. It was really fun and really good. A shout out to my friend Robin Miller back in Des Moines. I texted her for a pizza sauce recipe and she sent me her mom’s recipe. I actually had all the ingredients-even the red wine it called for. The sauce was awesome and more than Garry and I needed so I shared it. Every itty bitty drop was gone.

Oh, I almost forgot this. Saturday afternoon a friend of Peter’s showed up in a little runabout for a chat. Turns out he is one the the two caretakers of that ferry for sale in Ramsay Arm. They rotate two weeks on, two off. A guy named Ron is there now and not a real people person. But Jim said if he is there in August when we got back come over and we can have a tour of the ferry. The heli-logging company shut down permanently and sold off all their stuff except the ferry. So far no one is too interested in it. 

We are going to leave here tomorrow morning. That will be Monday, the 10th, and keep working our way north. We will be out of cell or wifi range for a few days.  


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Ramsay Arm

This trip is turning out to be a magical mystery tour as we keep meandering north. When we left Atwood Bay we took a short detour up Toba Inlet to see one of the gorgeous waterfalls. Since there is still quite a bit of snow the waterfalls are really something this year.

We passed Toba Wildernest marina and it had a few good sized boats moored. Toba Wildernest boasts wifi, good docks and a nice hike to a waterfall.  

We made the turn into Ramsay Arm. It is an arm of water approximately 7 miles long. We anchor way in the back and Garry had been rehearsing in his mind how we would set the anchor and get our stern line to shore and the old ramp we tie it to without any loud “conversation” between Captain and First Mate. We saw a small boat over at the old logging camp on the right shore but then to our amazement on the left shore (about half way down the arm) we saw what appeared to be an old ferry tied to shore. We found out later it had been the base camp for some heli-logging that had finished about a month ago. The old ferry is for sale, but does not run. I guess it is not too easy to tow, either! The generator is running, lights are on and the supposition is that there is a watchman on board.  

But I digress. We were pleased to see no other boats anchored and as we looked over to “our” spot we thought we saw a dock at the bottom of the old ramp. We didn’t see any no trespassing signs but clearly there had been recent activity of some kind. There was a Danger Blasting Area sign, equipment, and other signs of recent activity. Well, we decided to tie up to the dock. Of course… why not? But that always makes me nervous. Garry decided to go out fishing and after awhile I saw a boat heading our way fast. Gar said keep him posted in case he needed to come back. Gulp! A water taxi pulled in and I met Frank. He said they are blasting and putting roads in for future logging. It didn’t seem like it was a problem to be on the dock… so far… but then down the hill came a truck with a couple blasting guys. I wonder what their real title is. Anyway, all was super good and friendly and we were welcome to stay. Right now they work from 6:00 a.m. To 5:30 p.m. Frank takes them back and forth from the old logging camp that is on the right side of Ramsay. Frank and his wife used to spend a lot of time on their 42′ Ponderosa anchored here in Ramsay. And he used to log it back in the 1980’s. He and his wife had it written in their wills 2 years ago that this is where their ashes are to be spread. I guess Garry will have good company since he wants 1/3 of his ashes here too.

Over the last couple of days we have met some super nice guys. They work 2 weeks on, then one off. They are very willing to explain everything about what they are doing and telling us about other areas they have worked. This morning as they were unloading more explosives I asked if we could take the dinghy over to their camp and look around. “Sure.. take the truck. The keys are in it. Introduce yourselves to Anthony, our camp cook from Jamaica. He makes an awesome jerk chicken. Use our wifi.. the password will be there. Oh, why don’t you come for dinner tonight?”

So, we went fishing for awhile and then went and used the truck, met Anthony and he said he knew had been invited to dinner. So I did a quick check of emails, posted a couple pictures on Facebook and we headed back to our boat. We will head over there for dinner when Frank comes to pick them up at 5:30 tonight. 

 We just keep shaking our heads over our trip so far. We have had fabulous weather, great places to stay and have met really nice people. We are heading out in the morning (Friday, the 7th) and if there is a spot for us at Denham Bay go there. If no room we will probably stay on Bay Bay at the community dock. I did warn the blasting guys here that we will be back in mid August and to save our dock space.

Oh, on a seafood/critter update. We spotted one black bear here, caught some nice bottom fish, enough prawns to keep us happy, have steamers and oysters for tomorrow…life is good!


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Westview update

Our luck with weather, wind, waves and places to stay just continues to be perfect. We enjoyed Westview so much we spent 3 nights there. It was surprising to us how quiet things were considering the upcoming holiday and the fantastic weather. We took advantage of Safeway’s few delivery of groceries to our boat. We walked there via what locals call Cardiac Hill, shopped and made arrangements for delivery in early afternoon. We then walked to Canadian Tire and did a little shopping and walked back down Cardiac Hill. The walk is about 1.2 miles each way.
We fueled up Friday morning before we left. Diesel was $1 a litre plus 5% gst, but factoring in the exchange rate we figure it was about $3 a gallon. We were underway by 8:30 a.m. and in Desolation Sound by 10:45. Close to Refuge Cove there is a nice area to drag a hook for bottom fish so we fished awhile and caught a nice fish for dinner. Then miracle of miracles one of our favorite anchorages was empty. It is a tiny little bay that will hold about 2 boats. It hasn’t been open the last few years so we were jazzed. It is about 1.5 miles from Prideaux Haven Marine Park. When we carefully went in to anchor we found 3 different lines (ropes) from trees down the the shore that people had left for convenient tying of a stern line. We picked the best one for us and settled in nicely. I could hear a stream behind us and when Garry checked it out he found someone had made a little dam and sank a long 2″ hose that a nice volume of clear, clean water poured out of. We tested the water with our tester and it read perfectly safe to drink. 

Garry put out the prawn pots fora good overnight soak and the first pull Saturday morning was pretty good. Others pulls over the next couple days just marginal. But the long cod fishing was nice so ling cod chips, prawns and fries were dinner one night.

Cell phone coverage was only one bar but that was good enough to text with people. Just no phone. It was strong enough to check Facebook and emails, too.

We left our little bay Sunday, July 2nd, but first we took a dinghy ride over to Prideaux Haven, Melanie Cove and Laura Cove. There was a total of 31 boats in the 3 anchorages. In the busy part of summer that number will be way over 100 boats. Way over!

We cruised very slowly through Homfray Channel and because we were going so slow I spotted some new pictographs on a rock wall that I had never seen before. We were too far away for a good picture, though.  

As we passed Homfray Lodge we reminisced about staying there in the past. This year the dock is only for guests of the cabins and lodge and the prices have jumped. We didn’t see any activity, but the place looks great. Just past the Lodge a logging operation has started again after several years with no activity.

We paddled a little further to Atwood Bay. Again, we completely lucked out. There has been a small float in the bay that doesn’t say No Trespassing so when available we and others traveling along with us have tied up here. But it hasn’t been available for a few years. This year it is empty and not another boat in the whole bay. The float has many fun improvements since we were there last. They made the float a little larger, added a covered area with wooden benches. There is a pretty nifty fireplace, tons of cut wood, and ink e corner of the float there is a solar powered fish cleaning station. The solar charges a battery that runs a water pump to a hose. The power also operates a couple flood lights for those who clean fish a night. Back to the covered area – there is some overhead storage where this is a table, an umbrella, insect repellent, toilet paper, canvas chairs. All your creature comforts!  

We had been there about an hour when a black bear came out to meander the beach behind us. He left for a few hours but came back later for another stroll. A sailboat came and anchored in the bay and other than the bear and the sailboat it was just us.

We stayed two nights. We had semi-successful prawning and no luck fishing.

On our second day we took the dinghy down to Homfray Lodge. We stopped at the logging camp first and chatted with the watchman. All the loggers had the holiday off so it was just him and one other guy.  

The stop at Homfray Lodge was interesting for a couple. We got the scoop on the latest developments there but another boat came in while we were there. It was a guy who owns a couple cabins/buildings and a dock that we pass every year. He was testing his new super fancy 31′ rigid hulled boat that cruises at 60 mph comfortably. He is from the States and seemed like a really nice guy. He told us any time we wanted to stop there and walk around it would be fine.

So here is the scoop on Homfray Lodge. There was a caretaker who filled us in. The Macey brothers are leasing it to someone who is in the process of buying it. If all goes well it will close in few months or so. The buyer owns Pacific Coastal Cruises and he plans on bringing in one of the cruise ships twice a week and they stay a couple of days. As of the day we were there they had not had anyone stay in 16 days. A cook and housekeeper were supposed to arrive this week, but it was so strange to see no one there on the dock or as guests. The caretaker said there were lots of unhappy boaters who have stayed in the past but the current arrangement is you have to be a guest of the Lodge or rent a cabin to moor your boat there. And even then it is $2 a foot for moorage. The next few years will be an interesting transition to watch.