Winding Down?

We are in McNeill now so I added a ton of pictures to this post. Go back and look!

August 19

Unless something happens, Margaret needs to be back in Vancouver by September 4th. That means we are likely winding up our trip to the Broughtons. And we still haven’t touched even the tiniest bit of what it has to offer. But we are trying. Man, are we trying.

We left Turnbull Cove close to slack this time. Real slack. I finally figured out my app was giving me data from close to Alert Bay, two and a bit hours away as the tide goes. Live and learn.

The big yellow trimaran that had pulled in late yesterday was already gone but we passed it just at the end of the narrows. Other than that the trip was a Powerboat Extravaganza. We saw more powerboats, usually in pods of two or three on this short trip than we’d seen in weeks. We all kept thinking there wasn’t going to be a berth available anywhere.

And apparently powerboats don’t practice rock avoidance. There is a big one at the end of Sutlej Channel that, according to my radar, 3 consecutive boats went right over. To my way of thinking, even if the chart datum says its safely below your keel, you still go around. But I guess I think like a sailor.

Speaking of radar, once we passed Sullivan Bay it was mostly foggy. Not foggy according to the weather because as they often say “Fog implies visibility of less than one (nautical) mile.” But visibility was not too much more than that and the clouds were really low. And what the means is the danger of low flying planes is quite real. Apparently the float planes fly between the islands and below the clouds on days like this. And if you have this big, 50-foot pole sticking up from your boat, you start to have some competition for air space. Well it sure felt that way.

Shawl Bay is an older marina that hasn’t been kept up to the standards of the others. The store is gone and everything is a bit rougher and a bit in need of a little tlc. But it’s got a lot of friendly inhabitants, some quite long-term, and at $.90/foot it’s affordable. And the more worn feel means the high-end monster boats are no where to be seen. I liked it.

DSCN0483

And we hit Deep-fried Turkey Night. I baked up a couple of batches of biscuits as our contribution and had my first deep fried turkey. It wasn’t half bad, but doesn’t hold a candle to a traditional one. or t least the one’s I’m used to being served. Man, am I ever spoilt.

Afterwards we settled in and watched the Gilmore Girls finale. It wrapped it all up, but wasn’t the best ending of a series ever. Not sure what we will move on to next. I ripped the entire West Wing series and have 3 seasons of Jeff Daniels in Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom, so we have choices.

August 20

Morning here at Shawl Bay begins with free coffee and pancakes. And that was one of the reasons I wanted to visit here. And they were good. Lorne and his (I think) daughter Tracey are the proprietors and they treat everyone well. I also discovered they bake fresh bread and pies so I picked up a loaf and some buns for later. It’s all on the honour system and you just settle up at the end of your stay.

We decided to stay another night rather than anchoring out one night before we had to head to our reservations at Pierre’s. That way we could get some chores done. I decided on BBQ maintenance. The amount of grease that kept dripping all over my transom was out of proportion to whatever I had been cooking so I figured there was some serious grunge buildup that needed attention.

So I disassembled what I could do easily and started scrubbing. Remarkably it came clean(-ish) rather quickly. Which just makes you want to scrub more to get it right back to pristine—something that I gave up after the second round of scrubbing. And then I started disassembling even more. Dave pointed out a grease trap I had missed and I unbolted the bottom plate to get at the subfloor. All-in-all it took a couple of hours and a bunch of elbow grease but hopefully it will be better now.

One of the downsides was that scrubbing all that metal resulted in about 6 or 7 ‘paper cuts’ on my fingers. Lots of sharp edges and the scrubbing motion made the slices inevitable. This just makes doing anything with my finger tips, or worse, cooking with any acids, pure hell. Thank god fingers heal fast!

After lunch we mounted the outboard and went for a dinghy exploration of Shawl Bay and the adjoining Moore Bay. I thought I saw a dolphin — there’s been a real dearth of them this trip — and we did see at least 3 seals involved in death matches with salmon. Good fishing here obviously.

DSCN0485

At the far end of Moore Bay there is a forestry dinghy dock and a small recreation area with fire pits and picnic tables. And they had the most awesome cedar outhouse you’ve ever seen. And the old stumps here are huge. It would be so cool to see these giants before they were cut down.

DSCN0507

DSCN0522

On the way back we toured by the float homes that dot the coast of Shawl Bay. We’d met a few inhabitants last night at the turkey dinner and chatted as we putted by.

Back on the dock, Dave convinced me to join Happy Hour. I chatted with the couple off Grasal (Gregg and Jean) who were from from Calgary/Point Roberts. They’d been all over from Alaska to New Zealand and were quite friendly and shared a lot of stories. He climbed too, so we swapped a few tales.

Les visited the traditional book ’exchange’ and did her version of ’exchanging’ which bears a striking resemblance to hoarding if you ask me.

I made pork chops for dinner and then, as we had opted out of power for the first day, we enjoyed a warm solar shower and closed it down for the night. I hadn’t realized how lucky we were to have an opening overhead hatch in our shower stall. We simply leave the solar showers outside on the cabin top and run the hose down. Apparently the Shack has no such facility and Dave is forced to use his transom.

IMG_5367

August 20

Once again it was pancakes for breakfast and we chatted some more with Grasal. Margaret has decided (quite sensibly) that free pancakes aren’t worth both the 8pm start and shivering in the now cooler mornings, but I managed to chivvy and prod Leslie into joining us.

We putzed around for a few more hours and then, around noon, we cast off bound for Pierre’s at Echo Bay for two nights and their famous pig roast. I had booked Nikki from Echo Bay EcoVentures for a tour of Village Island and some learning in native and natural history.

As we exited the bay we pulled out the sails and, to the great joy of all involved, sailed the whole way! From Shawl Bay to Pierre’s at Echo Bay is 8.3 nm on the most most direct route which is what we would have taken had we motored. with the sails up we covered 10.7 nm in total, eating all the way. It was completely sail powered except for but .7 hrs out of the almost 3 hour trip. Awesome stuff.

DSCN0535

And to cap it all off as our last tack was bringing us almost directly into Echo Bay, a Humpback whale surfaced off our starboard side and the winds climbed to 14 knots. It was quite the exciting finale to a grand day. I managed to catch a little tail fluke on video.

Then we tied up and signed in. We picked up some tortilla chips and had baked nachos for dinner. Much more successful than last time.

DSCN0541

August 21

Today is D & M’s 25th Anniversary. We did up a hand-drawn card, quietly wished them our best. That way M’s anonymity could remain reasonably intact.

We started the day as per usual and packed some gear for our trip. Rumour has it Nikki only has a small powerboat and it might get chilly. Nikki van Schyndel is a young-(ish?) lady who lives here at Echo Bay. When she was in her “lost years” she and a companion lived primitive in the Broughtons for a year. They gathered all their own food, built shelter and basically survived “in the wild.” The skill and knowledge she gained during that period she now uses to educate and tour people around. She spent 6 of those months on Village Ialand so we figured she’d be a great tour guide.

She has a 15 or so foot boat with a 50 horse in the back. It did 16-18 knots most of the trip. A way different way of seeing the waters around here.

DSCN0542

In the way out she was listening to Channel 7 (the whale watching channel) and a friend of hers had spotted Orcasshe asked if we were interested. Duh. So we zoomed out into the strait and towards Malcolm Island. Along the way we spotted an immature eagle, a couple of porpoises and off in the distance, two separate humpbacks. It was an extravaganza.

And then we saw the orcas. Pod A5 to be exact (we figured that out a bit later with the help of some other watchers). There were 5 or 6. One in the lead, probably the matriarch, and the rest, including one big male with a monster dorsal fin, following behind. We killed the motor and watched them swim by. Sigh.

DSCN0551

Then Nikki borrowed a jerry can of fuel from the Fonz (a whale watcher out of Nimmo) and we zoomed off to the humpback. He was magnificent. Apparently the auklets stir up the fish while diving for them and the fish create a ball as a defensive mechanism. Then the eagles and seagulls come along and pick off the surfacing fish and the whales come in from below. Nice system.

DSCN0583

After our full of whales we caught up to the orcas for one last show. We stopped ahead and to the side of their path but a big schooner-sized sailboat full of eco-touriats with monster lens drove the whales almost directly at us. So we were treated to a bit of a beautiful parade as they streamed by at less than a 100 feet.

DSCN0572

DSCN0577

And then we were off. We stopped to float by a pictograph near the Chief’s Bathtub with its pictograph and Nikki pointed out an old burial site with a bentwood box still extant on the Star Islets. (There’s a government sign so it’s not a secret.)

Then we arrived at Village island. Nikki is pretty cavalier about the rocks and barnacles and we just off loaded right onto them. Then she anchored her boat a bit off and we headed into the bush. The village site has been empty since the 60s and not maintained at all in the last bunch of years. So what was fields when Nikki was here is now overgrown with blackberries and other head-high shrubs. So there wasn’t a lot to see, at least in terms of getting a sense of the lay of the village.

IMG_5392

At one time there were up to approximately 12 or 13 long houses. The main supports for one remains. The story goes that there was a fire and they built this one hastily to house people. As a result it didn’t get all the fancy carvings and decorations and thus was never “collected.” There are also a few modern homes slowly decaying in the shrubs. The Chief’s house and the old school/infirmary loom out of the field of greenery as eerie as any haunted house you could find.

DSCN0606

We picked berries (blackberries and thimble berries) and foraged for greens as we left the trail and strolled along the midden beach. You could see in the eroded banks, the metres and metres of old shells. It’s estimated that every foot is a hundred years so this village site is old. Really old.

Among other plants, Nikki gathered some Western dock, arrow grass (which tastes like salty cilantro), sedum, sea asparagus and more. Even some tasty mushrooms. Turns out her ’bible’ when she was learning was Plants of Coastal BC. Huh.

DSCN0611

At the end of the beach we walked back up to the site and saw the last totem slowly fading away on the edge of the path. The wolf was still clear and you could make out the bear and face of the chief if you had someone to point it out. It’s beautiful and sad at the same time that these artifacts are slowly fading back into nature.

DSCN0613

DSCN0616

We loaded up and then headed back towards the Ridge Islets, which is where we’d seen the orcas a few days ago. We pulled up to a small islet with some flat rocks and Nikki proceeded to make us lunch. She gathered some firewood while we stripped the inner layer of cedar bark to fine threads. Then she made fire. It was so cool. She did the whole bow and spindle thing with a birds nest made from the cedar bark we’d stripped and everything.

DSCN0628

DSCN0640   DSCN0635

Then she made lunch. A stirfry made from the mushrooms and greens she foraged, dried bull kelp and some dried salmon. The only addition was some precooked rice for filler. Then we ate it in clam shells with smaller shells for spoons. It was surprisingly delicious.

DSCN0637

IMG_5406

Nikki is a lovely soul. She talked to the whales as we watched them, spoke of her “arrangements” with the bears she had lived near and rescued a small blue butterfly from the salt water, dried it out in her boat and then left it on the small islet. And it was all pretty much unconscious. I’d like to be as connected as she was …

IMG_5407

Soon enough it was 18 knots of zooming back to Pierre’s. We thanked Nikki profusely and and headed back to our boats to find something to make for the potluck portion of the pig roast. We settled on Leslie’s Famous Corn Meal Muffins as appropriately suitable for Pierre’s Famous Pig Roast. I did up the batter and then left it to her to wrestle with the oven. That way I was innocent of any burnage or rawness that might occur. Sneaky huh!

The pig roast was fun. We were unfortunately table 9 of 9 so the potluck pickings were slim and seconds on the pig was also slim to nonexistent. But it was good. Roast pig is a lot like pulled pork. It’s a more “beefy” texture than ham or pork chops. Or maybe it was like turkey dark meat? Different anyway. We drank our last bottle of wine and enjoyed the evening.

Then it was bed time. The thought was to visit Billy Proctor’s museum before we cast off so it might be an early-ish day.