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Leg 7 - Ketchikan-Victoria

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Leg 7, Update 1
October 21, 2005, 49.21N, 124.14W, Log: 96,135 miles Underway, motorsailing at 7.6 kts into 14 kt headwinds, 20 miles N of Nanaimo, BC, Canada Baro: 1017.5-, Cockpit Temp: 56F, partially clear, 13 kt S winds, Cabin: 71F

It seems that we've often been just one step ahead of fairly severe weather on this leg. In talking with locals we've met along the way, the consensus has been that winter has arrived two weeks earlier than normal. We have had some glorious downwind sailing with blue skies, but we've also had more motorsailing and rain than during the previous three times we've made this passage.

Our crew joined us in Ketchikan on Oct 11 and although the forecast sounded grim, we decided to see if we could make it 38 miles south to Foggy Bay. The cold front that was whipping past Ketchikan was forecast to pack gale force winds with gusts to 65 knots, but I thought that since we would mostly be in narrow channels at the beginning, maybe it wouldn't be so bad. WRONG!

Underway, eight miles south of Ketchikan, we were down to motorsailing to windward with a triple-reefed main. Just when we were thinking about turning around we heard a mayday relay of a 58' fishing boat with a disabled engine. The last transmission was "We're going over, we're jumping in the water". Although the large USCG Ketchikan base was less than ten miles away, it seemed forever before they had a cutter underway, and it was a couple hours until they had a helicopter aloft which quickly found the beached boat and reported that all three of the fishermen were standing and waving from the beach next to their shipwrecked boat.

Meanwhile we dropped the main, turned, and surfed downwind, back on our track, three miles to Annette Bay. Here we found a calm anchorage, with the glow of Ketchikan's city lights visible.

Wednesday morning we raised anchor at 0410 with the hopes of crossing Dixon Entrance and making it to Prince Rupert, 95 miles away, before dark. The forecast of strong southerly winds never materialized and with winds less than 22 knots and a favorable current at the end, to speed us through the Venn Passage shortcut, we arrived at Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club by 1740. Customs was a cinch; a phone clearance and we enjoyed dinner at our all-time favorite Japanese restaurant, Opa, overlooking the bay.

Crossing Dixon Entrance
A leisurely start at 1030 on Thursday gave some of us time to swim laps at the excellent community pool, some time to stock up on waterproof gloves and boots at Sea Spray marine store and others time to check out the excellent museum. The 120 mile straight narrow run through Grenville and Finlayson Channel was gorgeous with waterfalls, Dall's porpoise and breathtaking scenery. In the last remaining light we anchored for the night in front of a huge waterfall in Lowe Inlet at 1930. The highlight of Friday was stopping at Butedale, an abandoned cannery town. We weren't sure what to expect, but were welcomed at the home made float by Lou, the sole caretaker of this once thriving operation. We immediately invited him aboard for lunch and afterwards Lou offered to show us around.

Lou calling for his dog

Dorothy asks Lou about his jury rigged generator


As most of the cedar-shaked roofs were giving way, the interior of the buildings were quickly deteriorating. It was sad to see so many buildings falling down but Lou said the California owner had only been up once to visit in the four years he had been caretaking. Lou was unpaid; the arrangement was that he could build floats and charge moorage, sell ice cream and offer tours to support himself.


Lou's modest offerings
Saturday we anchored in Work Bay, at the north of the Indian village of Klemtu, and went looking for an illusive 200' waterfall by dinghy. We never found it, but heard it the next morning when we left in the dark.



Klemtu was our first Indian village, and with new houses, a tribal salmon farm and an impressive long house on the point, it looked fairly prosperous. Amanda had noticed an owl being attacked by ravens; they had forced it to flounder in the bay. Upon returning to the dock she spoke with a father and his daughter who were preparing to rescue the bird; they asked if we wanted to keep it.


The village of Klemtu

The village long house

Sierra explains about the attacked owl

The owl is rescued


We spent a rainy evening at Shearwater Lodge on Denny Island. The only shipyard and marine store between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert, plus a sport fishing salmon lodge, restaurant and airfield

Tom works on the days navigation
means that Shearwater is busy year around. Our crew enjoyed showers and laundry while we went on a long run and met a fisheries officer from whom we learned that the salmon runs have been permanently depleted for several reasons.

From Shearwater we had a rough day slogging south in winds to 25 knots, but once we entered Pruth Harbor on Calvert Island, it was calm, even though clouds raced overhead.

We were surprised to see a long T shaped float at Hakai Pass Lodge. This hadn't been there on our previous visit, and we had intended to anchor and dinghy ashore for the walk the fabulous ocean beach on the island's exposed west coast. Amanda and Sam walked to the caretakers' cabin and got permission for us to tie to the dock for the evening and permission to walk to the beach

Dorothy and dog enjoy a moment on the beach

Ron takes in the windswept beauty

Amanda also relishes in wild expanse


Later I went ashore and met Murray, a native of Bella Bella (near Shearwater) and his Italian-Canadian wife, Diva and her son Dillon. When I invited them for dinner aboard, Diva was excited, saying we were the first boat they had seen in a month and only the second boat in three years to invite them for dinner! She asked if she could bring some prawns, and we sure weren't going to turn down an offer like that.


Murray, Diva and Dillon; aboard for dinner
What a magical evening we had! For three hours we listened, laughed and enjoyed this close-knit, incredibly hardy family. Murray told of growing up in Bella Bella, of being sent off to residential boarding school for high school and of fishing. Diva spoke of moving from northern Italy to Venezuela, then immigrating to Canada at age 11. She worked as a social worker while running a 120 acre farm and raising two boys as a single mum. Her first contact with Bella Bella was when the band hired her as a free-lance social worker. Eventually she sold her farm, moved with her sons to Bella Bella and married Murray. They now fish during the two months a year the resort is open, supplying the resort with fish and prawns, and move ashore and care take it the rest of the year. Their dream is to buy a little land down the coast on Vancouver Island or mainland BC's Sunshine Coast where Diva could have an herb garden and the boys could go to a proper high school. Dillon's younger brother was spending the night at nearby Attenbrooke lighthouse where the keepers have two daughters near his age. Dillon's dream is to become a fishing and hunting guide. When Ron heard that, he said, "Let me find and give you my

Ron's perfect halibut catch
halibut lure!" Ron had bought a halibut rig in Prince Rupert, but when he learned that fishermen often have to shoot the 250 lb halibut before bringing them aboard he never bought a license or tried it out. Dillon thanked Ron for the lure and assured him that it would catch many fish.

At 2230 our three guest headed shoreward down the dock, and we were surprised to hear Dillon knocking on the hull a few minutes later. He had returned with a gift of two bags of frozen halibut, which he had caught on an identical lure to Ron's. So, in the end, Ron did catch halibut; already cleaned and frozen!

The open stretch of Queen Charlotte Sound, 78 miles to Port Hardy, was kind to us. Forecasted fresh southerlies never arrived and we arrived in Port Hardy by 1600. We found a town whose population had dropped from 7500 to 4500 with the closing of the copper mine and a reduction in logging and fishing, but seemed to be hanging in there.


Welcome sign to Port Hardy

Tom and John check out the facilities

Port Hardy's typical fish cannery


We had a late start (0900) the following morning as it would be our shortest day of the expedition, only 28 miles. Our course took us close by the government harbour at Sointula on Malcolm Island. A Finnish socialist utopian community was started here in the early 1900's and although the commune didn't last, the Finnish influence is everywhere, with well-kept fishing boats, tidy houses of interesting design, and a large cooperative store.

Our destination was Alert Bay on Cormorant Island, home of the U'mista Cultural Centre,

Amanda studies a poster outside the Sointula co-op
completed in 1980 to house the Potlatch collection of masks that had been illegally confiscated by William Halliday, the Indian agent in 1921. Potlatches in which the host would give away many gifts to tribal members were an important part of NW coast village life, but were not tolerated by the missionaries and government agents. In 1921 45 people were arrested and

Arriving at Alert Bay
convicted of offences including dancing, making speeches and giving gifts. Their ceremonial gear including masks, rattles, copper breast plates were confiscated and sold to collectors and museums. We were able to see some of the items which have been returned, and the museum director showed our crew, the only guests in the museum, a short film about the history of the collection and people.

At the head of the dock was a young local carver, Stephen, completing a handsome 8' totem pole

Stephen working on a totem
for a collector in Quebec. Inside a little shed next door we met Jason, his cousin who was completing a very unusual looking octopus carving.


Old residential native school
Next to the cultural centre is the imposing old residential native school where children from the surrounding area were forcibly removed from their villages to attend boarding school. Now it is used by the band to complement the attractive new school next door.

We explored the town of 1500, especially the Namgis burial grounds where impressive mortuary totem poles mark the graves of important band members.


The township of Alert Bay

Abandoned fishing boat


Poles at Namgis burial grounds

Poles at Namgis burial grounds

Jason visits to show us his completed octopus plaque


That evening we were given two large coho salmon by a fish packing boat moored ahead of us. In no time Amanda had them filleted on the dock and in the oven for a tasty dinner.


Do you want a salmon?

A quick fillet, it's cold out here

Ready for the oven


Wednesday, October 19 brought clear skies and NW following winds to 40 knots and under full main MT scooted along Johnstone Straits. With gale force SE winds forecast that evening, we scoured the charts for a safe place to moor. We ducked into Kelsey Bay which was too jam-packed with fishing boats, so choose to continue on to Vere Cove where we found a peaceful anchorage.


Zooming along on a sunny day
When, on Thursday morning, the Environment Canada forecasters said the intense 955 mb low had stalled we decided to tackle the 46 miles to Campbell River. In order to wait for slack water at Seymour Narrows where currents reach 13 knots, we pulled into Brown's Bay, a tiny sport fishing resort, for lunch. The owner welcomed us to tie up without charge for a few hours, apologizing that his coffee shop was shut for the winter.

Campbell River was hopping! The local Indian band has recently expanded their impressive Discovery Harbour Marina and their adjacent shopping centre was busy, especially when our crew discovered Starbucks.

At first light Friday morning we continued south, originally for Comox, then Lasqueti Island, before finally tying up 15 miles north of Nanaimo at Schooner Cove. Forecasted gale force

Downtown Nanaimo
headwinds never materialized, so taking advantage of a powerful and favorable tide, we covered what we had planned to take three days in one! That meant that we were ahead of schedule, which always means we can see more places!

We ducked into Nanaimo Saturday morning for an hour, enjoying the very-European feeling Old Town

A foggy autumn departure from Fulford Harbour
area and harbour, before heading south 40 miles to Fulford Harbour on Saltspring Island. Saltspring, although just a ferry ride away from Vancouver Island, was entry into "Earth Muffin" society. Small shops sold newly tie-died recycled clothing, posters for peace dances and yoga classes crowed out the community notice board, and lots of friendly people with dreadlocks and layered clothing waved as we passed by.

Sunday we enjoyed breakfast at a little café by the ferry dock before heading south to Victoria, the provincial capital of British Columbia. Fair weather held, and we were tied up in front of

Approaching Victoria's inner harbour moorage
the Empress Hotel and Parliament Buildings by 1400. Unlike a few years ago, we were surprised to find all the shops open and lots of foreign visitors enjoying shopping and walking around Canada's most attractive city. (OK, we are biased, but it is a gorgeous place!)

Tom was eager to learn about industrial sewing machines so Amanda had him practice sail repair and create a ditty bag. Dorothy, keen to soak up the Victorian atmosphere, took Mark off to afternoon tea at the Empress Hotel. Although Mark isn't into high tea he was most empress'd when

Tom sewing his ditty bag

Dorothy and Mark enjoying afternoon tea
they first offered champagne. And in the meantime, Sam and Ron went and tracked down yet another pretty barmaid serving a good brew. They found one at the Irish pub and she was even wearing a tartan mini skirt!

Our last dinner together was at a Japanese restaurant followed by a group visit to the Irish pub. It was absolutely chocka with folks enjoying traditional Irish music. There must have been 20 musicians packed in a corner for a jam session. Loudspeakers outside let those on the sidewalk hear the music as well as the throngs inside, you just can't help but enjoy Irish music when the air is full of rhythm and enthusiasm.

Tom cast our lines off this morning and headed to Oak Bay to hop aboard his Bristol Channel Cutter 28 to sail her back to her home port of Port Townsend. The rest of us set sail for

Crew farewells from Victoria
Sidney, 30 miles north where the ferry dock and airport is located. The fog burned away after we rounded Trial Island and soon after we arrived our crew rented a car to explore Butchart Gardens and check out boat yards and marinas in the Sidney area.

Ooops! I nearly forgot to introduce our crew!

You will remember Sam Parker and Ron Poulton from our last leg (and several earlier legs!).

Dorothy Hazlett, 58 is a psychiatric nurse at Kaiser Hospital in Honolulu and first sailed the South Pacific in the early '70's. She and her husband

Mark Hazlett, 56 who is a Honolulu attorney, sailed from Tahiti to Rarotonga on the same leg that Sam and Ron were on three or four years ago. Mark and Dorothy purchased an Outbound 44 after making the passage with us, sailed it from San Francisco to Honolulu, and have joined us on Leg 7 to see if they would like to cruise this area with their boat after retirement in a few years.

Tom Winkler, 57 is a cardiac surgeon from Salem, Oregon. A very keen hiker, back country skier and a general good-natured guy, he also really enjoys sailing his traditional Bristol Channel Cutter. He plans to sail her to Alaska one day.

Wow, that's it! It's hard to believe this is the end of our 16th season! Tomorrow we will sail Mahina Tiare a short distance to our home at Roche Harbor on San Juan Island and start unloading and cleaning.

It's thank you time again:

Big thanks to Mahina Tiare III, our girl who this year took us safely 11,000 miles, for a grand total of 96,257 miles. (Equivalent of three times around the world) Our list of repairs is tiny; she sure has done an amazing job for the past eight years. Kudos to those Swedes at Hallberg-Rassy who knew what they were doing when they built her!

Thanks to Tracy McClintock who keeps our office running much more smoothly then when we are there, and to Roberta Crist at Great Getaway Travel who arranged the air for 80% of our crew, without one single hitch all season!

Thanks to Vickie Vance at HR Parts & Accessories in Sweden who sends parts quickly when we need them. I guess we didn't need that many this year!

Thanks to Chris and Melonie at Tif and Gif Creative who maintain our web site, help with graphic layout and mind our fishlets.

And thanks to all of our crew who joined us this year; letting us share our love of cruising with them and hopefully the knowledge that will help them make their own passages safely.

We will be back in easy email contact starting next week: sailing@mahina.com and look forward to seeing many of you at the Seattle January 13-21 and Chicago (February 2-4) Boat Shows.

We will be presenting two Offshore Cruising Seminars this year: Seattle-January 21 and Chicago February 4. There is more info on under Offshore Cruising Seminars on www.mahina.com.

And thank you, for reading our adventures! Hope you'll consider joining us for an expedition next year!

Sail back to leg 6

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