We finally got past the stormy weather (described in my last post), and left Rose Harbor for more exploration of Gwaii Haanas. I should mention that our approach and direction of travel was opposite of what most boaters do when they visit. The popular Haida Gwaii expedition plan is to travel across from Prince Rupert (or an island just south of there), and head directly to the Haida Heritage Center in Skidegate on Graham Island. Graham is an island in the northern part of Haida Gwaii, and not a part of the Gwaii Haanas National Park Preserve and Haida Heritage Site, which occupies the bottom third of the Haida Gwaii archipelago of islands. (Permits are required in Gwaii Haanas, which we paid for in advance and they were waiting for us with the Watchmen at Sgang Gwaay… our first Heritage-site stop.)
Our path took us directly from Aristazabal Island to Rose Harbor, at the southern end of Gwaii Haanas. So, where most travel to (and through) Gwaii Haanas from the north, we were traveling north from the south tip. In addition, we were traveling slightly pre-season, and crossed paths with very few other boaters until we reached the towns of Sand Spit and Queen Charlotte, near Skidegate, on day twelve . One other note I should add, for anyone considering the journey; We carried five 5 gallon spare tanks of diesel, which we filled before the crossing, because there is no place to fuel up in Gwaii Haanas. There are no provisions of any sort actually, so it’s important to arrive well stocked with food and beverages.
Our next planned anchorage was Collison Bay, a protected harbor on the south-east edge of Moresby Island. While in the open water our engine alarm went off for reasons unknown at the time. John checked everything he could while under way, to no avail. We simply throttled back and kept cruising. After anchoring he went through a few more things, and discovered our marine strainer (filters the water pulled from the sea to cool the engine) was clogged with krill! After a good scrubbing we had no more issues.
We did our usual peddling/paddling in kayak and dinghy that evening. Enjoyed the eagles and kingfishers that we see most everywhere we go, as well as numerous Moon and Lions Mane Jellyfish.
After Sadie’s morning trip ashore we pulled anchor and set out for Bag Harbour at the south end of Dolomite Narrows. Few deep-hulled or deep-keeled boats dare to travel Dolomite Narrows because it is just that… narrow… and shallow… with twists and turns just to make it more interesting. Neither John, nor I, can resist a good challenge, and we had a plan! 😜
After anchoring in Bag Harbour we dropped both Zephyr and my kayak in the water… to initiate our “plan”. Using John’s Navionics app on his cell phone I was to lay a track line by kayaking through the deepest part of the channel during low tide… when I could see it best. We draw 5.5′ (depth from waterline to bottom of keel), so it’s really important to know the safest (and deepest) route in a situation like this. A GPS track line, we could follow almost precisely from the “mother ship”.
On the way to the bottom of the narrows I observed a pair of Oyster Catchers having a fit. There wasn’t much doubt in my mind that they were a nesting. I thought the fit was aimed at me as I traveled past “their rock”, but then I noticed a Bald Eagle on a tree limb high above them. Even I wanted to shoo him away!
With a tag-along Harbor Seal, I headed up Dolomite Narrows during low tide, with a building current. Since I was focused on the underwater terrain, I wasn’t able to take pictures once I set out, but I was amazed at the colorful sea life just below me! Starfish, colorful clams and muscles, anemone and urchins, and loads of Red Rock Crabs! At the end of the narrows I turned back and made a second track line… just to be on the safe side. Then I turned around again and enjoyed the sights alongside of John and Sadie in Zephyr.
While I was busy tracking, John managed to get a few shots of the narrows… and me. In the second shot you can see just how shallow it is, and in the third… a bit of how windy (as in curvy).
So… the next morning, when the tide was at its highest, we set out on Summer Breeze to brave Dolomite Narrows. Once again, I had a job… bow watch. Even with the track lines we played it safe and tracked through visually as well. It was my job to make sure we didn’t run aground. 😳
We didn’t… run aground. And at the end the narrows opened up into the spectacular Juan Perez Sound. We were surrounded by the mountains of Haida Gwaii in every direction. After only a few days amongst these islands it was already apparent that the west side of Haida Gwaii was completely socked in with clouds, and those clouds were constantly creeping over the mountain tops. Sometimes they made it all the way over and engulfed us, but often they just hung there like a veiled threat. “Don’t go west”, they seemed to say. (Remember I made that notation, as it will come up again… when we dared to go west!)
After a long cruise through Juan Perez Sound we arrived at our destination for the night… Haswell Bay. It’s a beautiful bay, protected by a narrow entrance. As usual, we had the entire bay to ourselves. We immediately launched the kayaked and dinghy, and set out to see what there was to see. We found three freshwater streams cascading into the bay at the far end. Although barely noticeable at high tide, they were not only noticeable, but audible from a distance at low tide. There, we saw the usual Bald Eagles, Kingfishers, jellyfish and colorful tide pools. I’d have to say it was my favorite Haida Gwaii anchorage at that point.
The following morning we peddled and paddled a bit more… soaking up the quiet, peaceful space.
Once we’d had our fill of the lovely Haswell Bay, we headed back into Perez Sound and set our sights on Freshwater Cove. We were told there was a hose set up off of a freshwater stream. Clear fresh stream water… free for the taking! Gotta love it! Oh, and wait until you see the miniature sea-life we found there! Super cool! Next post!