Haida Gwaii… Meandering North Through Gwaii Haanas

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.

Underway to Collison Bay

Summer Breeze at anchor in Collison Bay

Moon Jellyfish


Collison Bay

Lions Mane Jellyfish tentacles coming up on the anchor line


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! 😜

One of many tiny islands in Gwaii Haanas

Clouds over Gwaii Haanas

Summer Breeze at anchor in Bag Harbour

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.

Pair of Oyster Catchers making a ruckus

Oyster Catcher squeaking or squawking, or whatever they do when excited

Oyster Catcher… Either grabbing a bite or feeding it’s young, I couldn’t tell

This is what all the noise was about… Bald Eagle watching attentively from a tree limb above

Curious Harbor Seal

Pigeon Guillemot


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).

John’s shot of me laying GPS track lines on my kayak

John’s shot of Dolomite Narrows during low tide

John’s shot of Dolomite Narrows


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!)

The end of Dolomite Narrows, heading into Juan Perez Sound

Clouds crawling over the mountains from the west, Juan Perez Sound

Clouds and mountains from Juan Perez Sound

Juan Perez Sound… creeping clouds from the west became a common site while there

Looking north in Juan Perez Sound

Juan Perez Sound

Clouds, mountains, water… and repeat… 😁

Sadie enjoying the ride

Summer Breeze in Haswell Bay


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.

Colorful shoreline coming into Haswell Bay

Looking back toward the narrow entrance into Haswell Bay

Summer Breeze in Haswell Bay

Bald Eagle perched in moss covered tree

Cascading fresh water at the end of Haswell Bay

Sadie waits patiently in Zephyr while John and I cross some rough terrain for some pictures

Baldy still perched, probably waiting for a meal to swim by

Lions Mane Jellyfish, Haswell Bay

Summer Breeze at anchor in Haswell Bay


The following morning we peddled and paddled a bit more… soaking up the quiet, peaceful space.

Lovely sky reflected in Haswell Bay

Zephyr floats at shoreline while we walk Sadie and do a little beach combing

Haswell Bay

And one more shot of a Bald Eagle. Likely the same one from the day prior, as they seem to have territories… usually in pairs


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!

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