Well this was embarrassing. We’re happily anchored in a cozy little spot just west of 78-meter-high Blair Islet in the Broughtons’ MacKenzie Sound, at the eastern end of rocky Hopetown Passage. The Blair Islet anchorage was recommended to us by Jack Green, M/V Brizo, when we were tied at the Jennis Bay Marina. I didn’t know about this spot, and thought it might be a good addition to the Waggoner. The embarrassing part is that the Waggoner already has it. It’s been there for years. I wrote the text. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up.

I didn’t think cautious people went through Hopetown Passage. One look at low tide convinced me. Hopetown Passage is full of rocks. The chart shows a shallow channel, however, and at high water I guess there’s room if a boat stays in that channel. A Meridian 47 went in and I didn’t hear any distress calls on VHF 16. We aren’t going to do it. We’re just too darned cautious.

We got here before the rain began. Rain continued all night and didn’t let up. There was no point going somewhere else just to sit in the rain so we stayed. My wife Marilynn had some minor cleaning chores to attend to, and I had this report to write.

When Mark Bunzel took over the Waggoner and I headed toward retirement I liked to say that instead of seeing three places in one day we’d try spending three days in one place. This trip has been a test of that approach, and I’m not sure how well I’m doing. It’s a relief to know we don’t have to be someplace later today, or tomorrow, or whenever. But after 20 years of constantly moving, always being “on,” relentlessly being in research and business mode, the change requires an adjustment. We read of men who grow bored with retirement and go back to work or start a new business. That’s fine if retirement is early, as in one’s fifties or so. I don’t think it’s wise when we’re in our seventies.

So we’re learning. Among other things, we’re trying to anchor out more. Previously, keeping the Waggoner up to date meant that we spent most nights tied to marina docks with only a few nights at anchor. We’re trying to turn the ratio around or at least bend it a little. We enjoy anchoring, especially in a place like the bay we’re in. Dense forest covers the hills around us and stops only at the high tide line. Granite mountains rise up nearby. Their sheer rock cliffs really are Ansel Adams photo material, just as the original Waggoner listing says. The gentle breeze and the currents swing us back and forth. The scene out the window changes constantly. Rain on the overhead is lulling. Sometimes it’s nap-inducing.

Float planes

All those years cruising the coast, and I’d never been in a float plane. Marilynn flew home a few times to take care of family matters, but I stayed with the boat. So it was an adventure for me when we left the boat at Fisherman’s Resort in Pender Harbour following the Tollycraft Princess Louisa trip and flew home via Kenmore Air for a couple weeks. The flight was my first in the legendary DeHavilland Beaver aircraft that crisscross the skies up here. There’s no mistaking the sound of a Beaver overhead. The low growl of the Pratt & Whitney R985 radial engine is as workman-sounding as the plane is itself. The Beaver has been called a “little truck.” It was designed for bush flying. It’s not fast, around 110 knots at cruise. But it has a lot of wing, which gets it into the air in a hurry. STOL—Short Takeoff and Land—it’s called. And that’s just about the end of my knowledge of airplanes.

Kenmore Beaver

The Kenmore DeHavilland Beaver approached the dock to pick us up.

Kenmore Pilot

You’re sitting with the pilot in a Beaver.

The flights were fabulous. Marilynn told me I’d be astonished at just how big the Strait of Georgia is, and she was right. To think, we cross that body of water in our little boats. We flew at less than 1000 feet, sometimes less than 600 feet. From those altitudes the maze of islands all the way home not only were impressive, they were personal. The couple from California were aboard. Looking at all the islands and winding waterways, I asked how much longer they could keep their Tolly 48 in the Bay Area. Would they move it to the Northwest by truck or take it up the outside? “We’ll do it by truck,” was the answer. Rain be damned. This really is a paradise for boating.

Aerial of islands

Islands and waterways from 1,000 feet or less.

We set out again

The Kenmore Beaver from Seattle deposited us at the Fisherman’s Resort dock, and we moved the boat over to the wonderful Seattle Yacht Club outstation around the corner in Garden Bay. Despite my grousing about spending too much time at docks, we stayed there three nights. Shopping at Madeira Park took a day, and we waited a day for winds to die down. Not being in a rush has advantages.

We plan to spend time in Desolation Sound in late July on our way home, so we didn’t tarry there too long. We did anchor in the lovely back bay of Squirrel Cove, and departed exactly in time to catch slack water through the Yuculta Rapids, Gillard Channel and Dent Rapids. Our destination was Blind Channel Resort, where we would overnight before leaving early the next morning to run Greene Point Rapids and Whirlpool Rapids.

I don’t know how they do it, but every summer Blind Channel manages to find a skilled and imaginative chef. Our halibut suppers at the Cedar Post Inn were outstanding. The presentation was so attractive it was a shame to violate it with knife and fork. Jennifer Richter had a fresh batch of her bread coming out of the oven that evening, and we took a loaf back with us. If you get to Blind Channel, have supper and buy Jennifer’s bread. You’ll be glad you did.

Supper at Cedar Post Inn

Blind Channel supper in the Cedar Post Inn.

We never know what to expect in Johnstone Strait, except if it’s windy we stay off. The wind gods have been kind to us this year. The 12-mile run between Sunderland Channel and Havanah Channel was flat calm, at least in the morning. A fresh westerly blew up in the afternoon, but by then we were safely at anchor in Potts Lagoon. The little float houses on the western shore of the bay were waiting for their summer vacation people. It must be fun to spend the summer in a purple house.

Potts Lagoon

Float houses in Potts Lagoon.

Spring Passage

From Potts Lagoon we crossed Clio Channel to Beware Passage (aren’t some of the names descriptive?), then through the tortuous route among rocks off the abandoned village of Karlukwees, up past Care Island, Caution Cove, Beware Rock and Beware Cove—I’m getting scared just writing this—and worked our way past Village Island to Knight Inlet. If you look at Chart 3545 the routes look straightforward enough, despite some of the frightening names. At sea level, however, it’s a very different. All the islands look the same, and that’s when they can be identified as islands. Often their crops of green trees blend perfectly with the green trees of their surroundings. “Cecil Islet, where’s Cecil Islet? Can you pick out Cecil Islet? Ah! There it is.” To be sure, we could plot routes on the computer and let the electronics run the boat, but I’m more comfortable picking my way along, using the computer to confirm what I’m doing. I want to be a participant in running our boat, not a spectator.

Once across Knight Inlet we entered extraordinary Spring Passage, an open but serpentine trek through low rock islets with views out into Queen Charlotte Strait. Our 16-year-old grandson Zachary will join us for a week on this cruise. He’ll fly in to Port McNeill and we’ll take him through the Broughtons, winding up a week later at Lagoon Cove, when he’ll fly home. It will require some backtracking, but we want to take him through Spring Passage. We’ll probably take him through Beware Passage, too, so he can brag about how brave he was when he gets home.

Jennis Bay

Jennis Bay’s recent history is something of a soap opera, with cruisers quizzing each other about who knows what. I’m not going to get into it here. Suffice to say that Allyson’s older sister Kim Marshall and husband Kent are running the place now, and doing splendidly.

Marilynn and I hadn’t been off the boat for a few days, and we needed a good walk. Logging roads penetrate the forest around Jennis Bay. One road leads a short distance to a log sort and booming ground, another branch leads to Huaskin Lake much farther away. We and another couple decided to go to the log sort and booming ground. Along the way we passed a big piece of highly specialized logging machinery, abandoned and rusting away in the woods. Shortly afterward we passed an old tugboat hauled up into the woods and rotting.

Prideaux Haven

Tug rotting in the woods near Jennis Bay.

Nothing was going on at the log sort, so we turned back, chatting amiably as we marched along. And marched along. And marched a lot farther along. At last, we realized something was wrong. We hadn’t walked this far to reach the log sort. The intersection, where we turned to the right to find the log sort was plainly marked, yet we hadn’t seen it. Were we lost? Had we somehow got onto a different logging road? What was going on?

Somewhat reluctantly, because of uncertainty, we turned back. Now we weren’t chatting. Forty-five minutes went by, and suddenly there we were at the intersection. The four of us had talked our way past without seeing it. Unwittingly, we had been on our way to distant Huaskin Lake.
Back at the marina, Kim had announced a five o’clock get-together at the shelter on the main dock. We got there at 4:45, just in time to whomp up our appetizer contribution and mix a couple refreshments. What began as a short stroll to stretch out the muscles had become more than a two-hour event. We wanted a walk and we sure got one. I was tired.

Wrapping up

The weather forecast was right. It’s been raining all day and it’s still raining. Supper from the new freezer is thawing on the galley counter. We’ve had a quiet day here in the wilderness. Next time I’ll discuss the freezer, and tell you about the new pocket-size watermakers. They work perfectly.

— Bob Hale

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