Here you will find tales of voyages past and present on our trusty Pacific Seacraft Dana 24, "Sockdolager," and our Bigfoot29 powerboat, "Raven," from Port Townsend, Washington, USA. In 2009 we sailed north from Puget Sound up the west coast of Vancouver Island to the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii.) In 2010 we went back to the west coast of Vancouver Island. In July 2011 we left the Northwest, sailed to Mexico, and in March 2012 we crossed the Pacific to French Polynesia, then on to the Cooks, Niue and Tonga. We spent several months in New Zealand, and in May 2013 loaded Sockdolager (and ourselves) on a container ship for San Francisco. In June and July 2013 we sailed north along the California, Oregon and Washington coasts, and in August we arrived home. In October 2016, Sockdolager found new owners, and we began cruising on Raven, a unique wooden 29' powerboat. In 2018 we cruised up to Glacier Bay, Alaska, and back. But in 2024 we had the chance to buy Sockdolager back (we missed her), so we sold Raven. We hope you enjoy reading about our adventures as much as we enjoy having them. (And there will be more.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

In the Broughton archipelago

We rounded Cape Caution in dense fog two days ago. Before we did, we talked about its name. "I think the name is kind of unspecific and negative, don't you?" said Jim. "Yeah," Karen replied, "Either they should call it Cape Fearful or give it something pleasant, but not a mushy word like Caution."

"How about Cape Carefree?" asked Jim.
"I like it!" said Karen.

But Cape Carefree it wasn't. Those wily Canadians were right.

Funny thing, it didn't look foggy from our view at the snug anchorage of Fury Cove in a group of islets called Schooner Retreat. Hmmm...

"It's not foggy this morning!" said Jim as we arose at 0500. "Yay! Let's go!" said Karen. We left with high hopes of a pleasant downwind sail and ran into a fog bank about half an hour out. When we say fog in BC, we mean industrial strength. No cute little cat's feet for THIS fog. It creeps like a cougar, not a kitty. "It won't last," we reassured each other. Weather reports agreed. Since we don't have radar, we proceeded carefully with Jim being lookout to port and Karen peering to starboard, both looking fore and aft constantly. And listening hard. And blowing our fog horn. And paying close attention to the vessel traffic channel on our VHF radio. Just like everyone did in the olden days. It paid off as we passed two tugs with barges in tow, unseen but clearly heard. One used its horn and the other gave a Securite call on the radio, to which we responded. Ten hours and fifty miles later, with eyes streaming from the strain, we reached the entrance to Blunden Harbor just as the sun emerged to the irony of a gorgeous sparkling day.

"This is the beginning of the fog season," said a boatowner at the very tony floating village at Sullivan Bay on Broughton Island, where we are now. Although it's great to have the same name as the bay and village you're in, it won't even get you a cup of coffee. But Karen did buy the T-shirt. We walked around the floating "road system" (our favorites being named Halibut Heights and Hootchie Lane, where we are docked) and we saw a helicopter on the roof of one of the houses. At dinner we learned that the village is owned by nine couples (several with large motor yachts from Seattle) who have floating summer homes here. Thought it was something like that. Sailboats are outnumbered 10-1 by very large powerboats, not only here but surprisingly at most of the places we've been, including some of the remote inlets.

One note of caution for cruisers who may stop at Bella Bella: although the town was filled with friendly people, the dockmaster was quite rude. Karen remembers being treated rudely in 2001 when she stopped there, too. In the morning after the potlatch we moved Sockdolager to the fuel dock, and the dockmaster angrily refused to give or even, when we asked, to sell us any water (this after several days of rain had considerably helped their supplies) and told us we had to leave immediately. He had just given water, lots of it, to a large powerboat next to us, so it didn't make sense. What provoked him we don't know. So we left and went across the harbor to Shearwater. A couple other boats there had had similar experiences. Our tanks were nearly empty. The water in Shearwater is brown, needs to be boiled, and is undrinkable. The locals don't drink it. We learned about a large-volume water hose on a rickety pier near the ferry dock in McLoughlin Bay to the south of Bella Bella, and found it had plenty of good water. Whew. But cruisers should conserve fresh water supplies just in case.

And a note on wildlife so this post doesn't end on a downer: There was a whale in Seaforth Channel near the entrance to Lama Passage, which is fairly far inland. It was the largest humpback we've seen so far, and it made a dive close by as it approached us as we sailed wing and wing at five knots. We worried about hitting it, but we needn't have. It stayed down a long, long time and we were awed by our memory of the huge size of it. Two days and fifty miles later as we approached Fury Cove, this same whale was there, right near the entrance. Karen recognized it by the odd shaped dorsal fin and the nearly all-black tail flukes. Again it dived nearby as if to welcome us, and this time we were utterly delighted! After anchoring, we climbed over some rocks to watch it frolic right in front of us off the beach. Ahhhhhh.....

A few days later, outside the entrance to the Broughtons at Wells Passage, we saw birds in numbers we hadn't seen before. Karen counted one raft of about 2000 birds sitting on the water; probably 600 gulls and 1400 rhinoceros auklets. This in addition to 600 rhinos sitting outside Blunden Harbor! Then, closer inshore, another raft of a thousand rhinoceros auklets, plus 500-600 gulls feeding frenziedly. Haven't seen birds like that since the Aleutians! It was a lovely sight to see so much bird life all in one place.

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