Friday, June 25, 2010

Week 2: June 19-25, On to Ketchikan

We pulled anchor early on Saturday morning. The skies were overcast but the seas were calm. We decided to stop at Bella Bella for a look around, a few groceries and some fresh water in our tank. We had heard mixed reviews about this First Nation village, but thought we'd check it out for ourselves. By the time we arrived at the Bella Bella dock the sun was shining brightly. The only place to tie up was at the fuel dock. We quickly found out that unless we purchased fuel we weren't welcome. We offered to buy water even though we didn't want fuel, but "no fuel, no water". I hastily ran to the top of the hill to the Band store where the locals buy their groceries. I bought a few needed items and then returned to the boat. It was clear that cruisers were not welcome here. I'm sure there is a long history that has contributed to the bad vibes. No hard feelings. We shook it off and continued on to another small Indian Village of Klemtu.
We arrived late in the afternoon. There were two other boats already at their small dock. Our main purpose for visiting was to have a tour of the newly built Long House that we had heard about(see photo). We learned from the Canadian couple on the sailboat at the dock that everything closes down at 5 pm and that nothing would be open the following morning either, Sunday. We deliberated for a few minutes and then decided we'd rather spend the night in a wilderness setting a bit further along, so we left the dock at 5pm and continued up the Princess Royal Channel to Khutze Inlet where we anchored between a waterfall and a river. It was 7pm when we arrived, a perfect evening; warm, blue sky, snow-capped peaks, rushing water, only two other boats. We traveled 105 nautical miles today! Another long day but with two stops. With so much daylight we never have to worry about arriving someplace after dark. We travelled at two speeds: 7 knots(to conserve fuel and take it easy) and 14 knots (to cover long distances and run smoothly through chop).

On Sunday morning we continued north on Princess Royal Channel. Again, overcast in the morning but the sun was breaking through by noon. We diverted from the channel to visit Bishop Bay to bathe in the natural hot springs there. A charming spot. (See photos) There is a floating dock at the base of the short trail to the spring and only one small power boat was there, so we had the bath to ourselves: perfect temperature, clear, clean water from inner earth.
From here we decided to circumnavigate Gribbell Island and then head towards Hartley Bay, yet another native village, to take on fuel and water. I had set an intention to see White 'Spirit' Bears on the shoreline of Princess Royal Island or Gribbell Island because this is the area where these unusual bears breed. These bears are the result of a recessive gene that occurs in black bears. The indian mythology states that they were put on earth to remind mankind of the days of the ancient Ice age. Some accounts put a positive twist on this - to remind us of the purity and simplicity of those times. Some put on a negative twist - to remind us of the hardship of that era. A young native boy told me that there were over 4,000 of these bears in the area and there are more born all the time. ( I think he may have had one too many 0's on the end of that number, but I thought I might have a chance at seeing one.) I had my binoculars sighted on the shore for several hours searching for bears, but to no avail. We did see two Orca whales, however, so all was not lost! :)
We arrived at Hartley Bay at 3pm. We couldn't find the dock attendant. We called multiple times on the VHF Radio, channel 6 which is the channel that this village uses to communicate. We went ahead and took on water and then walked around the town. Interestingly, this town has no roads. All the buildings are connected by boardwalks several feet above ground level. There are no cars, only Quads or ATV's. No signage on any buildings. (The village people know the school is a school, the store is a store, etc.) The occasional visitor has to inquire to find the Band store or post office. After about an hour, the fuel dock attendant showed up. He had been salmon berry picking. He must not have had a portable VHF radio with him when we called! The villagers use the radio like a party line phone. Everyone knows what everyone else is doing if they are listening to the radio. I knew that Jim was fishing on the south side of the island, that he was due home for dinner at 5:30pm because Ruthie was making lemon squares and he reminded her that he didn't have a watch so he might now be on time, etc.
Once we had the fuel on board, we quickly checked our email via the Verizon broadband card. (All villages have cell towers nearby.) Then we headed along Grenville Channel to Lowe's Inlet.
We arrived at 7pm and anchored in Nettle Basin right in front of the waterfall. Two sailboats from Victoria and a fishing boat were anchored in this large basin. Mist and light rain in the evening.

The Summer Solstice began with misty rain. Frothy foam from the tumbling waterfall floated by looking a bit like icebergs, "bergy bits". This day we headed directly towards Prince Rupert, the last Canadian seaport before the Alaskan border. We arrived in early afternoon and milled around in line for an hour to fuel up at the only operating fuel dock. We were in line with several commercial fishing boats. The fuel dock was definitely geared towards fishing vessels and it was an experience to pump diesel with their huge hoses. We decided to spend the night in Prince Rupert so we contacted the Prince Rupert Yacht Club which was adjacent to the fuel dock. Don't be fooled by the name. This was not a fancy yacht club. There were more fishing vessels and derelict boats there then cruising boats by a 5:1 ratio.
Besides being Summer solstice this day also happened to be a Canadian National Holiday for the First Nation people - celebrations were going on in the center of town to celebrate their heritage.
Pete and I walked around town and found a small seafood store that has a small dining room attached, Dolly's Seafood, and ate fish and chips and clam chowder. We noticed that everything was painted with black and white blotches and it wasn't until I saw the "Cowpuccino" Coffee shop that I realized that there was a Cow theme here for a reason. (See photos) We were in Cow Bay and the locals were capitalizing on this fact. Evidently, the name of the bay came from a time in the 1800's when a dairy farmer unloaded a barge full of cows in this harbor. The sky had finally brightened by dinner time but the sun never really showed itself on this solstice day although it was light until after 11pm.

We woke to gentle rain. We went to the Cowpucchino Coffee house for a carrot, raisin muffin and coffee, and then left the dock around 9am through Venn Passage and Portland Channel and then on to K'tzim-a-deen Inlet to the Grizzly Bear Sanctuary. Pete had heard enough of my whining and had finally been convinced that it would be better to go on a 80 mile detour to make me happy than to listen to my complaints about not seeing any bears. We had talked to several people who had seen bears recently at the sanctuary; so we were optimistic.
It was beautiful, even though misty and rainy, all the way to the head of the Inlet. We were
rewarded immediately. I noticed a small zodiac boat along the shoreline and then as I scanned the shoreline I saw my first bear, actually 2 grizzly bears - a male and female, chomping on the grass near the low tide. We approached the boat and soon found out that the park ranger and his wife and young child were in the zodiac. They pointed out a third younger bear not far away and we were able to approach within a boat length. (See photos) As we continued further up the inlet we visited the ranger float, looked at a display there, paid our $30 fee and then anchored in the designated anchorage. We deliberated about staying overnight here, but due to the continual rain we didn't think want to put the dingy in the water to search for more bear. We decided to pull anchor and head towards the mouth of the inlet so we could be poised for crossing to Ketchikan the next day. On our way out of the inlet we saw more bear, so I had a total of 8 bear sightings. I was happy!
We spent the night in Somerville Bay. Pete was up at the crack of dawn on Wednesday and we were out in the channel by 5am. It was still raining, and we were unable to hear the weather report until we were in the middle of Portland Channel. By that time, we realized that there was quite a bit of wind and the radio was forcasting gale winds. NOT what we wanted to hear. We were able to tuck into Wale Passage for shelter and we decided to continue slowly on this course and hope that the weather might flatten out by the time we reached the entrance to Cape Fox and Revillagigedo Channel. We put our nose out in the open waters and, sure there was some wind and rolling wave action but with our lobster boat hull the waves were quite manageable; a 4-6 foot Southwest swell with a one foot chop out of the SE. There were lots of commercial fishing boats hugging the shoreline so we didn't feel all alone. We decided to go for it. Pete always errs on the side of caution, so if he felt okay about crossing I did too.
On the border of Canada and USA Alaskan border there were two rocks on either side of us as we entered the Cape Fox area. These rocks were no bigger than Bee Weems and I sighted over 40 bald eagles sitting shoulder to shoulder. (Unfortunately, I have no picture to show because I was so busy counting). An appropriate greeting party to the shores of USA!! What do you call a flock of eagles??
Once we rounded St. Mary Island the seas flattened and we had no problems as we approached Ketchikan in the misty fog and rain. Our first sighting of Ketchikan were the huge cruise ships along the docks - 4 of them! And then the multitudes of seaplanes taking off and landing in one minute intervals - taking cruise shop passengers for rides to see Misty fjords and wild life from the air. It was crazy busy!! (see photos)
We docked at Bar Harbor Marina. The Customs agent came to the boat and was very friendly. All went very smoothly reentering the country.
It rained all day and we decided to do a few errands - laundry, showers, marine store, grocery store, etc. All within walking distance. We used the grocery cart from Safeway to carry all our purchases back to the boat. Evidently, the grocery store used to provide a delivery service to boats at the dock, but the service has been discontinued.

Thursday was a day to play tourist in Ketchikan. The rain stopped before 10 am so we were able to walk around comfortably under overcast skies with the thousands of tourists in town. We avoided the shopping areas and instead visited the Southeast Discovery Center, the Totem Heritage Center and salmon hatchery. All very interesting. It was the most time we've spent on land in over a week!

Friday - the sun is peaking out of the clouds as I write. We are going to head to Misty Fjords this afternoon. Pete is waiting for me on the boat. I'm at a coffee shop with free wifi to prepare this blog. I will post this and be off! Stay tuned!!

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