June 12, 2015 Pruth Bay, Calvert Isl
We decided to cross over to the Kwakshua Channel which separates Calvert Island and Hecate Island. At the far end of Kwakshua Channel is Pruth Bay, home of the Hakai Research Institute. The facility seems very out of place with excellent docks, piped in diesel and gas for their fleet of boats (also all in excellent condition), a heli pad with helicopter waiting at the ready, 50KW of solar power, internet via satellite (the first internet we encountered since Port McNeill), brand new dorm buildings, research buildings, boardwalks through the woods to a spectacular beach on the ocean side, etc. This place was better outfitted than any private or government facility that I’ve seen in a long time. It seemed like the bad-guy’s secret lair in a James Bond movie. But it’s all very innocent and well meaning. A guy who made a ton of money is medical imaging systems and has set up and funded the place. See Tula.org Anyone working there is quite fortunate to be so well sponsored.
June 13, 2015 Ocean Falls
Next we headed way inland, up Fishers Channel, then up Cousins Inlet to Ocean Falls. Ocean Falls is quite the trip, and seems like stepping into a post apocalyptic movie set. This was a thriving town up through the early 70s with a cannery, paper mill, a couple of hotels, large dormitories to house workers, and all the infrastructure of such a town. There is a large lake above it with a dam and hydro power plant. What was once a 5000 person community is now home to 25 people, and they seem to have the pick of which ever house they want to live in. A few buildings are clearly lived in and nicely kept. Others appear intact but are over grown with weeds and trees, and whole blocks of apparently poorly build homes are slowly melting into the ground. Two, perhaps three hotels stand vacant, one of which was never occupied.
|Welcome Center, Ocean Falls, BC|
|Abandoned homes in Ocean Falls|
|The whole town, practically abandoned|
Today, the hydro plant just keeps on running and provides all the local power, plus power for the two closest communities, Bella Bella and Shearwater. There are a couple of private docks, and one open to visitors. Down on the dock is the welcome center building where you can check your email and read about the history of Ocean Falls.
For us, the coolest part about Ocean Falls was that we saw our first pair of orcas, and two enormous schools of dolphins. As we were working our way up Cousins inlet, way off in the distance we could see what looked like a large breaking boat wake coming towards us. But as we got closer we could see what it really was – a line of dolphins spanning pretty much the entire width of the inlet working their way south. Our first thought when we saw this splashing line was that they were herding fish in preparation for a feast. And that might still be the case, but we later discovered there might be more going on.
Not too far behind the second line of dolphins were two orcas. And not too far from us they caught something pretty big for dinner. It then occurred to us that the orcas were likely hunting the dolphins, and a guy in town later confirmed that’s what they do. So perhaps the line formation is a defense? Big fish like it when little fish school together because you can eat in one big gulp. Perhaps the dolphins intentionally spread out to make it harder for the orcas to pick a target, and to limit the scope of damage when they do. It’s fascinating stuff that I know nothing about.
|Waterfront condos south of Ocean Falls|
June 14, 2015 Tom Bay (anchor dragging), Salmon Bay (too deep), Rescue Bay
The next day we were up, down and around all sorts of islands, mostly working our way west in the end. We had identified three possible stopping places for the night, the first of which was Tom Bay. It was a really nice location with reasonably shallow depths of 60’ or so, but after putting out the anchor we were clearly dragging. In retrospect, we should have tried again, but instead moved on to the next spot, Salmon Bay.
Salmon bay was also a wonderful setting, but we knew anchoring would be harder since it’s quite deep (150’+) and comes up very steeply at the head of the cove. When we got in there and got as close to shore as we were comfortable, there was just too much depth. So off we went to our third choice, Rescue Bay.
We could see ahead of time on AIS that there were at least two other large boats already in Rescue Bay, so I was a bit worried about finding space. Given the depths we were going to need 200-250’ of swing. On arrival, we found ourselves to be the 4th or 5th boat in, but there was enough room and we were able to get solidly anchored for the night.
One treat in Rescue Bay was a pair of Red Throated Loons. They made for a nice end to an otherwise stressful day.
June 15, 2015 Bottleneck Cove
The next day was a shorter run over to and up the Finlayson Channel to Bottleneck Cove. As its name implies, the entrance to the cover is a narrow passage that subsequently opens up into a long, but relatively narrow cove. The whole thing is shaped like a wine bottle. Anchoring was in 40 feet or so of water which is a good thing because the cove is pretty narrow and when we swung towards the shore line we were about as close as I’d like to be. Yet another lovely spot that more than made up for our anchorage search the day before.
June 16, 2015 Coghlan Anchorage, Promise Isl
The next day was once again about getting positioned for a long trip with tide and current consideration. Goghlan Anchorage is just inside Promise Island and right around the corner from the entrance to Grenville Channel. The trip was uneventful, but anchoring was a bit of a trick. The guide books and charts said the bottom was gravel which is usually excellent for anchoring. But once we got the anchor down it felt and sounded like solid ledge. It’s amazing what you feel and hear transmitted up the anchor chain, and you could clearly hear the anchor scraping across rock ledge. We finally got settled, but as I monitored more closely I could see that we were very slowly dragging. That’s not a formula for a good night’s sleep, so I hauled the anchor, moved a little ways, and tried again. This time it dragged a bit then caught hard. We were set for the night.
June 17, 2015 Grenville Channel, Stop at Lowe Inlet, Verney Falls, Prince Rupert
The Grenville Channel is a 50nm cut from Wright Sound through to Chatham Sound where Prince Rupert it located. The current through it this time of year isn’t huge, but runs 2kts or so and can make the difference between a long day and a very long day, so timing maters. Like the discovery Passage, Grenville floods from both ends and ebbs out both ends with the transition point more or less in the middle. Also, about ¼ of the way through is Lowe Inlet, at the head of which is Verney Falls. Apparently Verney Falls is a huge collecting spot for bears during the salmon runs, but we are too early for that.
Our plan was to depart early catching the flood for the first part of the trip. We figured we’d stop into Lowe Inlet to see the falls, then decide whether to stay there for the night or continue on. Lowe Inlet and the falls were very nice and I can see how it would be food-heaven for bears when the salmon are running, but there was nothing but water on our stop so we decided to continue on to Prince Rupert. We made great time up the channel and only had neutral or unfavorable current for perhaps an hour out of the whole trip. Then the ebb took us out the rest of the way into Chatham Sound. A few more miles and we were entering Prince Rupert harbour which is quite the operation. It is quite the commercial port. A large rail terminal right at the docks that can take freight anywhere in Canada or the US. There were 3-4 freighters being loaded or unloaded, and 3 or 4 more anchored in the harbour. Then another 2 anchored further off shore, presumably waiting to get in. We didn’t go to any of the town docks, but rather anchored in a cove across the way.
|Entering Prince Rupert, BC|