We departed Gorge Harbor on May 23 on a beautiful sunny day, crossed the Strait of Georgia, rounded Cape Mudge and ducked into Campbell River for gas. Then we set out again up the notorious Seymour Narrows. Here the current runs hard and the wind is amplified by the topography, and well… it can get pretty darn hairy. We had our sights set on Browns Bay at the top of the narrows where we would visit new friends, Doug and Sharon, who we met in Arizona while “wintering” south in our motorhome.
We arrived in heavy winds to a bay protected only by large floating repurposed tanks which were chained together. They may have stopped a bit of the chop, but they did nothing to hold back the swells that rolled through and beat the hell out of the docks and every boat attached to them. Needless to say, docking was not an easy task, especially on the end of the outside dock where we were assigned. We felt a bit like drunken sailors as we made our way down the bucking docks to the office to pay for our night’s stay.
From Doug and Sharon’s house on the hill above the marina we watched the mayhem on the docks below to the crisp sound of their flags snapping in the wind, and then we went inside and enjoyed a home cooked meal of turkey pie. [Yummy and cozy, and a very pleasant evening! Thank you Doug and Sharon!]
Sleep eluded us for the most part that night. In an effort to protect Summer Breeze we had all seven of our fenders squeezed (literally!) between her and the dock. Like a bronco, she bucked all night long, while the fenders squawked loudly in protest. At first light, against the gale, we fought our way free of the dock, and after a failed attempt to continue north against it, we turned around and made our way back to more protected moorage in Campbell River.
After provisioning and a good night’s sleep we set out once again up Seymour Narrows. As we passed Browns Bay we waved to Doug and Sharon, who we could not see, but knew they were watching through binoculars. As we prepared to put up the sail, Doug informed us via VHF radio that we were approaching a pair of Humpback Whales. We watched them for a bit from afar, and then took advantage of the wind and put up the sail. While tacking back and forth we kept an eye on the Humpbacks until we could no longer see them
With one reef in the sail we continued through Discovery Passage to Johnstone Strait, blew right past two potential overnight spots John had his eye on, and continued north in varying winds. Shook the reef once, then reefed again. When the winds hit 25 knots, we put in a second reef, but John didn’t like the sail shape (he’s as picky about sail shape as I am about image composition), so we doused the sailed for the day, and tucked into the Walken Islands for the night.
We continued up Johnstone Strait the following morning, sailed when the winds came up, and motored when they died down again. Within a short period of time we spotted two separate pods of dolphin and/or porpoise. Most likely Dall’s Porpoises and Pacific White-sided Dolphins, but we were never close enough to confirm.
By late afternoon, as the wind was building, we doused the sail one last time, cruised past the dock at Port Neville and found a quiet cove a little farther up the inlet. Before we even dropped anchor, I spotted a bear stepping out of the trees. As soon as we set anchor and dropped Zephyr in the water, we set out with cameras in hand. There were two of them, as it turned out, and I was pretty sure they were Grizzlies. With my limited experience photographing bears, I have at least learned that size and color are really not factors with regards to identification. Well, that and to keep a safe distance. I would not have dared to approach as we did if we were on land, I assure you! The lighting was horrible since they stayed in the deep shade, and I was not equipped for spectacular bear shots, but it was a treat to observe and photograph them just the same… from the safety of our dinghy.
As the evening was drawing to a close, and the sun had already set, I spotted them again, on a different shoreline. This time I hopped on my kayak, and set out in pursuit, John and Sadie followed after me in Zephyr. From a distance I watched the smaller of the two… a patchy brown bear I assumed to be female… forage her way down the shoreline in my direction. The larger black bear (assumed male) stayed in one place, focused on one thing. Food. By this time I had confirmed, by looking closer at my images, that they were indeed Grizzly Bears. The shoulder hump, face shape and incredibly large claws were the tell-tale signs.
Neither noticed us for quite some time, and it was the smaller brown bear who spotted me first. She continued to eat, but kept a wary eye. It took a bit of time for the big guy to notice he was foraging alone, and mosey his way down the beach toward the other. A movement in Zephyr, behind me, alerted him to our presence and he stopped and looked that direction. Suddenly Sadie let out a bark, and much to our amazement, the big-ole scaredy-cat barreled into the woods. We could literally hear small trees being flattened under his weight! She… on the other hand, looked up quickly at the sound of the thunderous commotion, saw nothing to be alarmed about, and went right back to her meal.
(I assumed male and female… mates, but they could just as easily have been a sow and her yearling cub. I’d have to consult with someone in the know. I don’t imagine male and female would hang out together other than breeding season, which it may well have been. The thing that makes me doubt it was mother and cub, was simply that a mother bear would not likely run in the face of potential danger and leave her cub behind. A yearling… maybe?) I should add that, while we were in this cove I did not let John take Sadie ashore without going along, scanning the shoreline in both directions, and making plenty of noise.
After that I peddled around for a while, enjoying the scenery and the silence. Two squawking seagulls caught my attention, and I pointed my camera in their direction in the fading light. From a distance I could not tell what they were fighting over, and even on my computer I’m not sure, but I’m guessing an eel. It amazes me what these birds will make a meal of. One of the silliest images I got last year was a gull with his mouth packed full of a purple star fish. I’ve held a starfish before. They are not as hard as a rock, but they certainly aren’t “fleshy”. Seems a bit much to swallow and digest to me.
I was out on my kayak again early the following morning, hoping for another photo session with “my bears” in light more conducive to good images. No luck there, but I found other things to turn my camera on…
Next up… The Broughton’s! Another new place for us!