Captain’s Log – June 24, 2010
After leaving Poet’s Cove, we cruised to Montague Harbor on Gabriella Island. It is about half way up the Gulf Island chain, which lies on the eastern side of Vancouver Island. In the U.S. they are known as the San Juan Islands. They are beautiful low mountain islands covered with forests and surrounded by greenish-blue water. Montague Harbor was full of boats, including three Nordhavns. We lowered our tender and went ashore for an exploratory mission and found out that the local pub ran a bus service from the harbor. On the way back to Odyssey, Kathryn took the opportunity to learn how to run the tender and had a great time getting it on plane and zooming around the islands. At the appropriate hour we reappeared ashore for a trip to the Hummingbird Inn. A few minutes later, there it was: a 1975 Ford school bus appeared right on time and about 20 boaters climbed aboard. With 60’s music blaring and a tip bucket duck taped to the drivers seat, we headed off to the Hummingbird Pub. The inn itself and the people we saw there reminded me of northern Michigan. All around were hundreds of gigantic Cedar, Hemlock, and Douglas fir trees. The beautiful scent of the Cedars was simply lovely. The Hummingbird Pub appeared to be the center of social life in the area and offered something for everyone: it had a play yard outside to occupy the kids, while mom and dad consumed vast quantities and smoked cigarettes inside; for us it offered great fish and chips and a couple of beers.
The next day we headed for Nanaimo, the second largest city on Vancouver Island. It was about 25 miles through beautiful island landscapes, and required transit through Dent Rapids, a 30-yard wide passage bordered by rocks that tidal flows play havoc with. The water was a mass of huge whirlpools and violent water movements. We went through during a flood tide, and we were tossed about like a cork. It was very exciting and I learned to pay a lot more attention to the time of tide changes.
Nanaimo is a lovely small city and seaport. We pulled in on a cold, rainy day. In fact, the weather up here has been pretty dismal. As we approached the dock, we noticed a large antique 80 ft. Seiner (net fishing vessel) following us. It had been restored and was in beautiful condition and was now a private cruising vessel. We walked over to talk with the captain and he gave us a tour of Midnight Sun. She was built in 1936 of wood. She retired from active duty about 20 years ago when he bought her and began the conversion. It was very interesting indeed. Later that afternoon Yellow Fin, a 1926 vintage steamer came in with an original engine that clickity-clacked its way into the harbor. Both boats were beautiful restorations. Nanaimo is a charming, clean, neat little town that we explored on foot. It is anointed with plenty of flowerbeds, as only the Canadians seem to do. The winds started picking up in the evening and continued well in to the next day and we decided to stay over an extra night.
The next morning was still a little windy, but a sailboat came by on his way into the harbor and told us that the seas were moderate. We packed up and moved out for Pender Harbor, about 4 hours away across the Strait of Georgia. Pender Harbor is actually several small harbors all linked together by a common channel. It is a lovely place, quaint and picturesque with lots of boats at anchor or tied to a dock. We chose to tie up at Pilothouse Marine in Garden Bay. The most interesting thing about this place was the proprietor, Ronan Oger, who lives on a 100ft wooden WWII sub chaser (one of 6 remaining out of 600 built). It was pretty cool, although in obvious need of restoration. Pender Harbor is a jumping off point for a 30-mile trip up Jervis Inlet to Princess Louisa Inlet. Princess Louisa Inlet (PLI) is one of the great natural wonders of the world, on par with Yosemite Valley. It is 5 miles long and about ½ mile wide at the widest point. The sides of the fiord are almost vertical granite walls rising 7-8,000 feet to snow capped peaks. At the end of the fiord is a large waterfall known as Chatter Box Falls. The trip up Jervis Inlet to PLI was one of the most spectacular, breath taking trips I have ever taken. Pictures don’t do it justice, although I have put several of them on the website for you to see. It was truly magnificent, with towering snow-capped mountains providing unparalleled vistas that only a trip up this waterway could reveal. The treasure of PLI is protected by a nasty piece of water known as Malibu Rapids. The is a very narrow double S shaped rapids that produces 11 knot plus currents and nasty vortex and whirlpools during tidal changes. Those wishing to make the passage generally wait for the slack tide and then try to make the transit during the fifteen minutes that waters are passable. In our case, Ronan provided plenty of instruction the night before we left. The next day we spoke with a Canadian (Merlot) by VHF, and they led us through the rapids when our turn came. It was a nail biting time, but we did it! When we passed through the rapids and cruised up the fiord, Merlot hailed us on the radio and said they had space on the public dock for us to tie up. When we got there, there were two large boats with 60 feet available between them: we pulled up beside the open space and used our thrusters to parallel park. Other boaters gathered about and marveled at my ship-handling prowess, but the truth is that Odyssey is so easy to maneuver that it takes no real skill, although I enjoy the illusion.
The dock was a party spot the first night: the guy who owned the boat in front of us had an electric piano tied to the deck and started playing around 6 PM. All the boaters gathered around with glasses of wine and conversation. “Merlot” passed out steamed fresh oysters to the group and a fish head for our crab pot. It was a lot of fun. The next day the sun vanished and low rain clouds filled the fiord. While they floated up and down the walls of the inlet in grey fingers, we explored the falls and the rain forest. Once again we marveled at the beautiful lush, verdant forest with its towering firs and cedars. Spanish moss hung from the tree limbs and huge ferns and other plants covered the forest floor. We left the inlet the following morning and decided to explore the end of Queens Reach, about 6 miles further up Jervis Inlet. The attraction of this particular spot was the view: a panorama of snow-capped mountain peaks, lush forests and grasslands, waterfalls, and the tidal marine inlet. We dropped the tender and spent the afternoon fishing and setting our crab trap, and we hoped to see some animal life. We were told that many of North America’s biggest animals live in this area: grizzly bears, black bears, moose, elk, wolves, mountain lions and more. Although we didn’t see any of the big game, we did see a great many seals. Kathryn seemed to love crabbing, and wanted to set the pot and pull it up after about 15 minutes. Usually it takes about 12 hours of “soaking”. She was very excited if something was in it. We decided to go after bigger crab, and a local fisherman told me we had to be in about 130 ft or more of water to catch anything good. We looked about the boat for extra line to add to our 100 feet of crab line. After we had it all put together, we had about 145 feet of line tied to a buoy. We put a nice big fish head in the trap, put it all in the tender and set off to launch it. When we reached a spot that measured 135 feet on the Fathometer, we put it over the side. Down it went, and down, and down, and . . . disappeared, buoy and all. It wasn’t supposed to do that! What a shame: 250 bucks worth of stuff down the drain. Maybe it would reappear at low tide? We checked, but no such luck. As the sunset, we fired up the BBQ, made a few libations and selected a movie. A wonderful day!
Next morning we started back toward Pender Harbor. Once again the scale of the vistas we saw enthralled us: sunny skies filled with puffy cumulus clouds floating past snow-capped mountain peaks, majestic green forests, waterfalls dropping thousands of feet into the beautiful blue water that was passing under our keel. It was magnificent! The next morning was Father’s Day, and although I had forgotten, Kathryn didn’t. There on the salon table was a card and gift followed by a wonderful celebratory breakfast. Later we pulled our lines and headed for Vancouver. It took about six hours to get there, and at 4 PM we tied up in Coal Harbor Marina, which is located next to the Westin Hotel in downtown Vancouver.
Kathryn was glad to be in a big city again, and Vancouver is a gorgeous and exciting. It’s perhaps the newest city in North America and certainly very sophisticated. The city is located on a peninsula. At the tip is Stanley Park, which is similar in size to Central Park in NYC or Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Coming into the harbor, we passed under the Lion’s Gate suspension bridge linking Stanley Park and Vancouver to some of its suburbs on the far side of the harbor. Around the inner harbor (Coal Harbor) are thousands of high-rise condos. These are beautiful glass towers that attract investors from all over the world, particularly China. Very few of the owners are full time residents, and at night most of the buildings are dark or unlit, but they create a residential environment that supports high fashion stores, lounges, cafes and restaurants. We were told that the average selling price for a home or condo here is $1 million. After dinning out at the marina restaurant the first night, Rebecca and Kathryn went shopping at Granville Island and the Yale town district the next day. Canadians are very fashionable and like to dress well. As a result, shopping in Vancouver is among the best in the world, but it is pricey. After working on the boat during the morning, I joined them for lunch at the Granville Public Market. This is the best market I have been to, and it is a place I always go when in Vancouver. It is a vibrant place surrounded by water and boat slips. Every type of food and gourmet item can be found here, as well as cloths, art, and all kinds of interesting things. That evening we dined in, with Kathryn and Rebecca joining forces to whip up a wonderful dinner from some of the items we found that day. The next day we decided on a fitness focus. We started out walking around Stanley Park, which is about 5 miles around the outer walk. After about 2 hours we cut it short and made for the Aquarium, where we saw an impressive dolphin show, along with sea otters, beluga whales, and the normal fish exhibits. Kathryn suggested that we eat a late lunch on the boat, and then conduct a pub-crawl through Vancouver’s best nightspots. We went to four really neat places. All were distinctive: an Irish pub featured over 100 different whiskeys and a large variety of draft beers; another claimed the best bar tender in all of Canada, and he might have been. His drinks were very unusual. Mine was a Havana cigar infused Makers Mark; combined with Laphroaig Scotch and a dash of red wine, finished off with two tiny black cherries. The third place was more conventional and was in the middle of the Gaslight District, the key entertainment area of the city. The fourth place was a rotating space needle type of restaurant that featured panoramic views of the area. There is both good things and unfavorable things about a pub-crawl in Canada: the good things is that the john’s are clean, which is true of everything else. It is a delight. The unfavorable thing is the taxes: 12.5% sales tax plus and extra 10% on any alcoholic beverage. In addition, the poor buggers up here pay an income tax with a 50% marginal rate and very few deductions, and they pay property taxes. It is a wonder they have money left to buy a drink! Yesterday, our last full day, we revisited Granville market to restock some of the best pasta I have ever tasted. Rebecca spent the late morning vacuum packing it and some salmon for the trip north. Meanwhile, Kathryn and I enjoyed Dim Sum for lunch, a specialty in Vancouver as they have over 1 million Chinese citizens here. Dinner was Japanese style Tappas, a very unusual place, but perfect for a closing evening and celebration of Kathryn’s birthday. The following morning Kathryn left for NYC, and we pushed off for our trip to Alaska.