We had a good break in Port McNeill and headed out to Port Hardy hoping the winds were changing. Everyone at the dock was super nice. When we tie up in marinas we either find yachties on big boats who watch us from a distance and take pictures from their upper decks, or we find really cool people who are curious about our trip and want to chat. In Port McNeil everyone on the dock stopped to talk about our trip, and after hearing about what we are doing some even wrote a check to Interplast to help support our cause. Many of the people had seen us beating our way up Johnstone Strait, and wanted a closer look at the wiener dog figurehead they saw sitting on the front of our kayak. Some in small sailboats were impressed that we were sailing when they were motoring through the chop, but they probably didn’t think about the fact that we had no choice.
When we left the marina there was supposed to be a south wind pushing us the 26 miles to Port Hardy, but 2 miles out the wind changed to northwest again, and the current joined in to oppose us. After four or five hours they saw we were going to keep paddling despite their efforts, and they subsided, leaving us floating in a perfectly mirrored ocean, dimpled by the fanning motion of a million tiny jelly fish, each one the size of a nickel.
We paddled on for 19 miles, and found a campsite on Shell Island off Fort Rupert.
The next day we paddled the remaining 7 miles into Port Hardy to meet up with Katey’s parents. They took the ferry down from Prince Rupert, and landed in Port Hardy the night before. The water was hard to distinguish from the sky.
It was nice to have a short day, and get chauffeured around to a hotel and dinner, then back down to Fort Rupert to check out the artwork. Fort Rupert is a small native village with a longhouse and cemetery with beautiful carvings and paintings. We could see some of the carvings from the water when we paddled past, and it was nice to wander around and check everything out up close.
Katey’s mom and dad brought us some food, which they shipped up to Bella Bella for us since we had just filled our boats in Port McNeil, and they took a few of the remaining pieces of gear that we had not been using. They were going to spend time biking on Vancouver Island on their way to Seattle. We left Port Hardy well rested, stuffed, and with the boats a few pounds lighter.
When we left Port Hardy we had to cross Queen Charlotte Strait and round Cape Caution. We hoped for good winds so we could make it in as few days as possible, and everything fell into place. We crossed Queen Charlotte Strait sailing at 5 knots in moderate waves, then sailed around the Cape with a tail wind and low swells. We already posted a brief description of the crossing in Back Inside, but here are a few more random photos.
After crossing and making our way up to Addenbroke station, we continued on to Bella Bella. We thought it could take 4 days from Addenbroke, because the winds were supposed to turn back to northwest, but we made it in two. The day from Addenbroke to Namu was a beautiful downwind sail with the whales. We were surrounded by humpback whales from the time we left.
As we approached Namu we weren’t sure what to expect. We knew it was an abandoned cannery, but there was also supposed to be a place to camp and some sort of resort. It known for having archeological evidence of inhabitants 10,000 year ago. It sure didn’t look like a resort from the water.
Some of the piers were dangerously close to falling over, entire walls of the cannery were in ruins, and the contents (cans oddly enough) spilled out. A large ship tied up to the front of the pier was half sunk, creating a rusty breakwater. And the houses on shore and the boardwalk were also in ruin, with roofs caved in and supports falling over. There were, however, a few fishing boats tied up to one of the docks, and as we got closer we could see a new building with freshly sawn cedar siding. We tied up to the dock and Katey went to find out what the options were.
It turned out the building on the end of the dock was a shelter with a fire pit and outdoor kitchen, where we could cook our dinner, and there was a patch of grass between the buildings for our tent. The caretakers had planted flowers and created sculptures out of various found objects along the path to the camp spot, which sat above the back side of the bay. We cooked our dinner over the fire and enjoyed the view, then went to bed.
We were woken up in the morning by a humpback whale surfacing behind our campsite. I got this video of the whale spouting, which isn’t too spectacular, but right before, and right after the video the whale breached and rolled in the air to land on its back. It seemed crazy to crawl out of your tent to find a whale doing aerial gymnastics a few hundred yards away (you’ll have to use your imagination).
The next day we thought we would go to Serpent Point, about 16 miles away, then paddle into Bella Bella in the morning. As we started to sail out of Namu around 10:00 AM, the winds really started to blow, and they pushed us all the way out of Fitz Hugh Sound and into Lama Passage. Katey got a little extra lift from Lil’ Bit’s ears.
We made it to Serpent Point by 2:30 PM, 17.5 miles in 4 and ½ hours. We decided to push on, even though the wind turned to a face wind (Katey’s new word for head wind because it better conveys how annoying it is). We tacked across the channel then dropped our sails. We paddled for an hour against a blasting wind and waves, trying to make it around the corner that would lead to Bella Bella. When we turned north the wind was again on our backs and we put our sails up once again. We had a quick sail the last three miles into Bella Bella. As we approached the public dock a kayaker pulled up alongside to check us out. He was just paddling back from the pub in Shearwater, and started raving about the chipotle bacon cheeseburger just a few miles away. We were really done for the day, having travelled 28 miles, but the temptation of a really good burger was too much, and we turned East and headed for Shearwater. As we pulled into the marina the harbormaster greeted us and let us tie up for free. We closed up the boats and headed to the pub before the kitchen closed. It was our second day over 30 miles.
I was sitting outside the laundromat in Shearwater, uploading pictures for this post, and a guy on a bike rides by me and says “you have a bear behind you.” When I turned around I had a medium-size black bear about 30 feet behind me, right outside the door to the grocery store! I went to find Katey to let her know there was a bear in the area, and as she walked across the lawn an Eagle swooped down to almost arms length, probably checking out Lil’ Bit who was on his leash. I’m starting to think we were better off camping out on a remote beach rather than staying in “town!” We’ll head out tomorrow morning for Prince Rupert.