Sunday, September 11, 2011

Barkley Sound Adventures

September 10, 2011

Barkley Sound remains a stand out, even after a summer sailing in the more remote regions of British Columbia and wilds of southeast Alaska. The Broken Group National Park offers hundreds of islets diverse marine life, First Nations sites, good fishing and plenty of adventures.

Ok, here is a one recent day in Barkley Sound....

We spent a night at Effingham Island, woke to bright blue skies and set out on a hike across the island. Decided to follow a side trail and ended up bush whacking around a bit, literally off the beaten track and enjoying a oneness with nature infrequently found. Making our way back to the dinghy we set out to circumnavigate Effingham island exploring each of the mini bays along the rocky shores and even an ancient First Nations village site which included a 100 meter long shell midden. A midden is basically an old garbage dump comprised of shellfish shells. This one is maybe 2000 years old and impressive in both length and height. Imagine over 60 dump trucks brimming full of clams and mussels. We harvested a few mussels ourselves from the rugged seaward side of the island. A bit of a challenge that required carefully timing between wave sets of huge swells. Looking for another unique experience we also ran our dinghy through an impressive sea arch a few times which can be quite a rush with surging white water coming from alternating directions. Pulled the prawn trap which yielded a small haul of spot prawns then went Salmon fishing where we landed a nice Coho.

Anchored behind Protection island near Lucky Creek we were surrounded by huge schools of small fish. Maybe many tens of thousands of fish which attracted a few savvy sea lions whom were having a feast on the dense shoals of fish around the boat. The water would erupt with furry as the sea lions drove the fish to the surfaces as they gulped down the unlucky ones. A humpback whale was also in the neighborhood and we could watch him feed from our anchored boat. We tore ourselves away from the action to take a trip up Lucky Creek for a swim in the fresh waters above the falls. With the sun well into it's daily downward arc, we made the trip in an outboard powered dinghy (you'll need a rising mid-tide or better to navigate the shoal waters at the bar and again near the falls). Keep a sharp lookout for bears as they might be feeding on the abundant oyster beds or the grass flats along the creek. Once at the falls you can carefully climb the rock face to gain access to the series of falls and pools above. One pool features a rope swing and on a sunny afternoon the creek waters will warm to a pleasant temperature allowing more than a brief splash in the water. We took the opportunity to enjoy a nature bath amongst this amazing scenery. Grabbing for my towel I knocked my sunglasses off the falls. They landed in a pool mid waterfall which I lowered Kathy into so she could grab them with her toes. This didn't work so well so Kathy took the plunge and grabbed the glasses. Once again she bails me out of a jam.

Back on the boat after our swim I set out to catch a few of the zillions of fish in and around our bay. Outfitted with a light weight spinning reel and a herring jig I quickly secured a number of what I believe to be Mackerel. My intent for the oily fish was bait. I loaded the crab trap with a few of the fish and overnight secured a 7-3/4" Dungeness Crab. The remaining fish I cut into strip bait, covered with salt and stored in the refrigerator for future fishing expeditions. After a great dinner we wrapped up the night with a movie. Yes, life is good.

Waking after a great sleep and dreams of more grand adventure we found our world obscured in dense fog. The fog obscured even the nearby islands and we could hardly see the bow of the boat. I guess every day can't be perfect so we worked on boat projects until the fog burned off around 1PM. Got underway and tried for another coho, but after a few hours of trolling here and there we pulled the lines and headed toward Dodger channel to anchor. We were in search of a nice beach on which to specially cook our whole Coho in a traditional First Nations fashion. To prepare the fish I carefully removed the backbone without cutting the skin on the back of the fish. Sort of a reverse fillet and quite time consuming. Next we set our to secure some cedar sticks from which to fashion the split that would hold the fish. The beach had lots of chunks of cedar to choose from, outfitted with a pocket knife and axe this went pretty quick. The problem was this island didn't seem to have any Alder trees which are the required fuel for this particular method of cooking. We searched around and almost postponed the cookout for want of Alder wood which is pretty ubiquitous in these parts. Not deterred we set out to find the wood on a nearby island which had a tree with a branch to offer to our cookout. The fish turned out better than delicious. Look for pictures in the next few days.

Today we are sailing the 190 odd miles from Barkley Sound to Astoria, Oregon. The weather is superb with sunny skies and North West winds. With the spinnaker hoisted we're making great time on an easy down hill run. Passed three other sailboats, one of which we hailed on the radio and was heading to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico directly without the aid or backup of an engine. Now that's real sailing.
Right before dinner we spotted a breaching whale which put on quite a show with more than 10 leaps. However, the show got scary as we were hauling along at 9.5 knots and closing in on the whales show as he moved stage right, that's right in front of our boat. After the last leap and crashing breach we held our breath as the whale sounded to leap again in what would be way too close. Luckily he decided to end the show. Was it in part due to the fact that we cranked the stereo and stated an engine to let him know we'd enjoyed the show, but were exiting out the back of his stage.

Topping off our day we had some great BBQ burgers and watched a great sunset with just a hint of green flash. Lingering pastel colors continued to enchant well after the sun itself disappeared for the night. Lucky as well that we have a full moon to guide us through the night as we cruise about 25 nautical miles off the coast of Washington.

Next stop, US customs in Astoria, Oregon. After clearing in we will haul the boat for a few days to do some minor projects. Then head downhill to California.

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