Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Vancouver Island West - crossing from Haida Gwaii

At Rose Harbour, Haida Gwaii, we had a bit of a parting of the ways. S/V's Canik and Steel Eagle headed East with favourable wind, and we needed to wait for a day until the wind swung North so that we wouldn't be straight into a South Easter. So we had a day of boat duties and preparation for a long sea passage, so we were checking over all the systems and making sure that everything was put away and secure - dinghies, sewing machines, guitars.........  And we nosed up to the mooring buoy at Rose Harbour and in the space of a couple of hundred yards our bow thruster went from fully operational to not working. What the ?! That wasn't in the plan. S/V Estrellita turned up later in the day and rafted up to her supply ship. The movie was Independence Day and the Deckhand Ale from Victoria was gratefully accepted.

Our route was 169 miles across QS Sound; we left at 0740 after a last weather check. 1000 we were off Cape St James among the tufted puffins. 1130 we started seeing the black albatrosses that were going to accompany us; 1735 we had the humpback breaching show from a pod of 5. 1915 we had a school of Dall's porpoise with us. Susie took the first watch from 2100 to 2400 while I slept. My watch was 0000 to 0300. There was no traffic to speak of but it is amazing how busy one is - continuous (small) adjustments to the course; monitor radio traffic (we scan at least half a dozen channels); check radar number 1 and number 2 (different ranges); review the AIS targets that come and go. Susie did the 0300 to 0600 and had two cruise ships and a ferry to contend with. By the morning we were past Cape Scott and by 0930 we were tying up at the government dock, Winter Harbour, Vancouver Island. Oh and it was my birthday. A quiet day walking the boardwalk and even visiting the first general store we had seen for three weeks - important purchases. Bait. Beer. Bread (who needs bread?).

So let's get to the important matters. On the way into Winter Harbour we had to fight our way through a horde of sport fishers just off the lighthouse. Mmmm - does this mean that there are fish? Those of you who read this stuff carefully will remember that we fitted downriggers to Last Mango back in March. Now we can try them out. Down to the lighthouse and into the sport fishers. Rods ready; weights and tackle down at 60 and 80 feet...........we had a fish on already! It was a great day.......trolling at about 1.5 knots, flashers and hoochies, Susie driving the boat; good use for the comms headsets. And the fishing was productive. Our first salmon from our own boat. Later in the day we anchored up in the Koskimo Islands and cleaned and cached our haul.

And here in Quatsino Sound we have finally seen our first sea otters since leaving Alaska. Even I have to say they are cute, since they lie on their backs in the water and look up curiously at you. And they are usually chewing on a sea-urchin - hence our nickname for them - Crunchy. These poor little critters started off the whole colonisation of the Pacific North West; Captain Cook traded goods for 800 pelts. Unfortunately these unsuspecting creatures have the luxury of 800,000 hairs to the square centimetre and hence provide the best fur in the world. No wonder they were virtually wiped out.

After Quatsino Sound the major navigational hazard is Brooks Peninsula. Along with Cape Scott, the waters off Brooks are the most hostile on the west coast of Vancouver Island so a careful eye on the weather is essential. It was a good day for us so we headed south and into the Brunsby Islands to anchor for the night in
peaceful Scow Bay. The following day we threaded our way through the Barrier Islands and headed for the community of Kyuquot in Walters Cove, Kyuquot Sound. Happy Days - we tied at the government dock and our lines were handled by our friends from Estrellita!

So........we just had to get out there with Carol and Livia and check out the fishing again. 0600 we were heading out and had the lures in the water off Spring Island by 7am. It was a good start to the day, bites and the odd fish, but a bit slow. So we headed off into the fog and searched for more sport fishers on the radar. Ah yes, they were lined up along the Kyuquot Reef. The salmon here are heading south, from the Gulf of Alaska, and congregate where there are bait fish. They also need to rise over the reefs off the sounds and that is a good place to try. Another hour later we were limited out so it was a good piece of team work; the crew had a great day. We did lose a few fish, probably large springs; we will have to try again sometime. Maybe when the freezer fish-gauge gets down to danger level.
Walters Cove is a chilled place to tie up for a couple of days. There are no cars or roads. The government dock is the centre of the community; the store opens 3 times a week (still on winter hours, it only being June!).

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