Calvert Island and Bella Bella… Last Stops Before the Crossing to Haida Gwaii

From Fury Cove we crossed Fitz Hugh Sound to Calvert Island, where we traveled west up a long inlet to Pruth Bay. We were told this island’s west coast boasts one of the finest beaches on the entire west coast, and it is all part of the Hakai Marine Preserve. There is an extensive research center here, and they allow access to the island and use of their dinghy dock. There’s ample room for several boats to anchor in the bay.

A couple we met on the dock in Port McNeill (Janet and Pete) happened to be there at the same time, and stopped by in their dinghy to say hi. When they saw Sadie they warned us of wolf activity on the island. A dead whale had recently washed up on one of the west beaches, and attracted a number of wolves.

Since Sadie doesn’t have the endurance to make it anywhere near that far it wasn’t a worry, but I was dying to check it out! I had observed wolves in the wild only once before, and that was in Yellowstone National Park from quite a distance. John took Sadie ashore for a potty break while I readied equipment and gear for a rainy hike through the woods and down the coastline for an unknown distance in search of wolves, and a dead whale… which couldn’t be hard to find. All we really had to go on was the direction Janet had vaguely pointed toward over her shoulder while standing in their dinghy, and holding on to Summer Breeze.

The hike through the woods was easy enough, and the beach was indeed beautiful… if only the weather were nicer! We turned south and trudged through the sand to a trail through the woods and over a point to another beach, which lead to a trail over another point. We eventually came to a fork in the trail with a sign between the two trails that simply “Lookout Beach”. We turned to the right and hiked to a place where we could look down on the beach and saw no sign of a whale or wolves, so we turned around and took the other fork thinking it was taking us over a higher ridge to yet another beach. Where it took us was to a lookout point. Nice, but not what we were looking for.

View from Lookout Point, Calvert Island

Bird’s eye view of a Bald Eagle

 

We turned around and hiked back to the fork, looked closer at the sign and noticed someone had penciled in an arrow on each side. Meaning Lookout to the left, and Beach to the right. So back to the beach we went, and down the beach, and through the woods again to yet another beach… and here we saw tracks. Wolf tracks!

I knew they were likely watching us, but couldn’t imagine they’d be hungry if they’d been feeding on a whale. As it turned out, there was little left of the whale. What was left, though, was completely surrounded by wolf prints. It was easy to envision the feeding frenzy of a wolf pack while looking at all the prints. I’m sure they were near, in the woods, but as sunset neared we had no choice but to turn around and make the long, soggy hike back to where we started.

Wolf tracks

Wolf tracks at the edge of whale remains (the rest too unsightly to share)

A bit of lushness in the woods

 

We reached the main beach with light to spare. We’ll likely come back to enjoy this place on our return south… if the weather calls for sunshine. One thing we do not find traveling through these waters, is sand. Rock, muck, kelp and seaweed… midden even, which looks like sand from afar, but is actually course broken shells that some say are were left behind after thousands of years of Indian habitation. Never soft sand. After the pace of our travel it would be nice to spend a sunny day relaxing on the beach with sand between our toes!

West Beach on Calvert Island

The sun finally breaks through at days end, West Beach

Colorful shoreline reflected in the glassy waters of Pruth Bay

 

We departed Pruth Bay the following morning and opted to take a different (and more interesting) route… via Meay Inlet, across Hakai Passage and up Ward Channel… back to Fitz Hugh Sound. I am constantly amazed at the colors and textures of the rocky shorelines we travel past. Often, the rocks… stacked and leaning against one another… remind me of puzzle pieces. They clearly fit one to next, as they were once one. Geological movement, over thousands of years, created this art. Amazing! The zig-zagging pattern I observe so often (example, second image below) brings to mind a pattern I’ve seen woven into Indian baskets and fabrics, and it makes me wonder if these rocky coastlines were an inspiration to Native Indians all those years ago.

Many Inlet

Hecate Island shoreline, Meay Inlet

Hakai Passage

Rocky island in Hakai Passage

Island in Hakai Passage

 

In Ward Channel we spotted a mink swimming through the water, and slowed to observe him hurrying ashore, where he dashed up the rocks and hid from view. Hard to believe these little guys were once killed by the millions for the sake of perceived luxury and wealth. (Along with otter, fox, sable and a whole lot more!)

Mink swimming (with something in his mouth) in Ward Channel

Mink, dashing across the rocks, looking for a place to hide

More color and pattern in Ward Channel

Shoreline in Ward Channel

Ward Channel

 

At Janet and Pete’s suggestion we headed to Codville Lagoon at King Island, where it didn’t surprise us to find them again. They invited us over to Winging It for a glass of wine, and there we shared lots of stories and absorbed every bit of knowledge they had on traveling the West Coast of Vancouver Island, which they’d done a few times before. The west coast is open water, and very remote with few harbors and communities along the way. Boating there is not to be taken lightly. The more insight, the better in our minds.

Crossing Fitz Hugh Sound

Heading into Codville Lagoon

 

Next up was Bella Bella, for water, provisions and such. I don’t know if we stopped in the old Bella Bella, or the new one. I understand there was a fire some years ago, and Bella Bella was apparently rebuilt in a different location. Regardless… there was little there, and much of what was there was closed.  Luckily I’d done most of my “stocking up” on food supplies in Port McNeill. Our journey across to Haida Gwaii, and Gwaii Haanas in particular, was taking us completely off-grid. No marinas, towns, stores, gas, or supplies of any kind for the Gwaii Haanas part of our trip… potentially two weeks. First of all, there’s just not a lot of space for food on our boat. And more importantly, the refrigerator is simply an icebox when we are not plugged in (or motoring with the inverter on). I am not a fan of canned and/or processed foods. Keeping meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables fresh was going to be a challenge. (And as it turned out, I managed to make the most of the fresh items for 10 days!)

Anyway, I trudged up the hill in the pouring rain and grabbed a few groceries while John filled our water tanks. When I got back I saw an equally soaking wet Bald Eagle sitting on a high post down the dock. I dropped the groceries and grabbed my camera. He glared at me when I approached, and then seemed to humor me with different poses before taking flight. The light was so bad that it took some post processing to bring up acceptable images. Through the dreary rain I managed to pull off a few fun shots. The one of him taking flight almost looks like a painting to me.

 

Bald Eagle pose #1

Bald Eagle pose #2

Bald Eagle pose #3

Bald Eagle takes flight

Colorful village near Bella Bella

 

We docked for the night at Shearwater Resort nearby, and met up with Janet and Pete once again. After laundry, and a trip to the chandlery we met up with them for dinner before calling it a night. (There was a feeble attempt to do a blog post while I was there as well, but I only got so far as to load my images before all power in the area went out. C’est la vie!)

By morning we were off to Aristazabal Island, bringing us as close as we could get before the big crossing (About 85 miles) across the width of Hecate Strait to Rose Harbor in Gwaii Hanaas. The trip to Weeteeum Bay at Aristazabal Island was rough. Rain, wind and 6-8′ swells part of the way. We were oh, so glad to set anchor upon arrival.

Lighthouse at Bella Bella

Lovely clouds over Queen Charlotte Sound

Dramatic clouds

Ivory Island Lighthouse

 

Along the way a loud and rather odd sound grabbed our attention. Luckily I keep my camera close at hand, because when I glanced up I saw a barking group of Sea Lions looking at us as though we’d interrupted something. We’re guessing they were focused on “fishing” and startled them, but who knows. Regardless, it was the first we’d seen a group of them in the water. Usually they’re sunning themselves on the rocks as we go by.

Sea Lions in Hecate Strait

More cloud drama

View from Hecate Strait

Aristazabal Island, Hecate Strait

Waves crash at Aristazabal Island

 

After a quick meal, we settled in early. We had a 16-18 hour crossing ahead, and John’s plan was to set out at midnight while the seas would hopefully be relatively calm. This was off shore, open water we were heading into, so who knew!  The story of our crossing, and a look at Gwaii Hanaas is up next.

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