Ken relays his observations of the voyage from Vancouver to Prince Rupert during winter weather and a pandemic. He’s travelling on Prairie Dust with Josh, and helping this less-experienced sailor to become a more-experienced one. In Part 1 of this story, they made it to Port Neville. Along the way, Ken is using the opportunity to assist coastal peoples affected by the pandemic and other traumatic experiences.
Dec 3, Port Neville to Port McNeill
07:35. We departed Port Neville. With some nostalgia, I directed Josh’s eyes to the trees up on West Cracroft Island. My crew had planted them some years back. Contractor Lyle C had us living on the old freighter The Alaska Prince, anchored in Potts Lagoon. I was First Aid; then the cook quit, so I was then Chef, and skippered the crew barge. We drove muddy logging roads to deliver the trees from the ship’s hold to the hillside, and checked to see if the crew lunch boxes were safe from the ravens and raccoons. Those planter girls and boys sure had fun on the ship, but a lot of sore muscles for the First Aid guy. Good that they leave our trees to grow for 45 years old now.
14:30. We were now by Cormorant Island, Alert Bay and Malcolm Island. Turning left, we phoned up for a dock in the Boat Harbour at Port McNeill. The 5,000 ft of transient moorage was empty except for a giant catamaran.
What does one do in Port McNeill? The dock entrance is under construction so we climbed the barrier fence. The village is mostly clustered close to shopping malls. We walked around to resupply and the women all seem to like us, waving and smiling. At the supermarket we bought frozen pizza, steak, and salads. Josh pointed out how the blonde lady has circled around the aisles three times to say hi to me, and, yes, there was fine wine – in a box or two. We went along to the shopping mall where a warm winter hooded coat was only $40. Finally, very important on my mission, a walked into the Marine Education Research Society (MERS).
MERS is an extremely important place to visit and support. More whales are alive because of these young women, including the famous Jackie Hindering. Her underwater photography and weekly blog are amazing. She, more than the average sailor, was devastated by the destruction of marine life by last year’s heat dome. What to do?
After thanking her, and buying a T-Shirt, it was time to roll back to Dusty. But we really, really needed three lead, down-rigger balls, 30 lbs each for kellets, so we’d get a good night’s sleep. We loaded them into a shopping cart at the Rona store. I also got real waterproof pants and jacket to go with the new winter coat. Whoop whoop! Our dock was blocked off, so we carried the lead-lined shopping cart over some obstacles to get it all back to Dusty. Then I cooked up a fresh, three course meal after Josh successfully lit the stove.
Dec 4, Port McNiell to Southgate
09:00. Mt. Waddington looked like a ski hill. Passing Malcolm Island, the locals were towing lots of salvaged logs. All good and so beautiful – the waters, the mountains, islands, forests – just the normal places us cruisers find, and all can go swimming – in August. But on Dec 4, the deck needed shoveling, and… still all we had was the dust pan. Why didn’t we buy the last plastic snow shovel back at Rona in McNeill? Oh, Josh let some lady buy it. Good man. The diesel chimney smoke sure makes the deck snow black, though. Bobby McFerrin’s cheery folk song, “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, came to mind.
It was time for Dusty to sail away into the real Inside Passage, past Deserters Island. Southgate came into view as did some heavy clouds. Made for another beauty sunset, in this world class amazing place.
15:30. Southgate was home to five logs, all reluctant to get pushed aside. Dusty was anchored, and the kellets worked well. Another look at the engine, no smoke. Checked the fluids, and raw water flow, for we were headed out to the Pacific. I cooked a four course meal. Josh again reviewed the smoky Dickinson stove and scrubbed soot off the door glass. And then a warm night’s sleep.
Dec 5, 2021, Southgate to Fury Cove
07:15. We departed Southgate. Cape Caution was in view, as was one fishing trawler way over by Wilkie Point and Queen Charlotte Strait – we were close enough to the open Pacific to get a gentle swell. We rolled out both sails for no winds, sigh. The waves were less than the swell and it all had the bluewater feel. At Cape Caution both of the unfurled sails commenced flopping. No cleats, no self-tailing ….
11:46. Fry Pan and Table Islands had gone by. We were by Egg Island Lighthouse. A big fishing dragger went past, heading south, while Prairie Dust rounded the Lighthouse. We called the lighthouse on Channel 16: “This is Prairie Dust…” The reply came swiftly: “Hello Prairie Dust this is Victoria Coast Guard, are you sinking?” to which we retorted: “Nope, this is just an information call.” Lesson learned: Do not radio that lighthouse, if you wish to contact them perhaps try using the phone.
With that, the course was set for Fury Cove, where the chart reads: No Anchoring. At 14:12, logs were pushed aside and, as I lowered the anchor, another big cruising sailboat arrives. The Island Packet 48 was an actual happy type, like a BCA couple, in full winter colorful sailing outfits. Would they report us?
The sailboat motored up – the couple smiled, waved, and said hello while circling Dusty at anchor. They were just passing by from Prince Rupert Yacht Club on their vacation trip, heading up Rivers Inlet. Turns out, their vacation was very important to the Coast, nature, and our planet. They were going to a protected area of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, where they help protect the salmon and the Great Bear Rainforests. These folks volunteer for the most valuable grizzly bear habitat on the Coast, at their own cost, while living on their boat.
Dec 6, Fury Cove to Shearwater
07:30. The drifting logs had stayed off where we pushed them and were gone before dawn. Weighed anchor; pushed button up. Nope. The windlass was not working right. OK FINE! Hauled it by hand, and piled the chain on deck. Way too much scope out! Anyways, we left at the first light.
Turns out the problem was that the coupling did not like to go over the gypsy where the chain meets rope, and not all the rope rode was grabbed by the gypsy. The swivel must be hand fed down past the gypsy, through the deck. We could see the gypsy chain stripper was bent and the chain just wound around the whole thing. Not effective in raising the anchor plus 3 kellets. Yep, it was broken in a remote place, and with a lot more anchoring to do – perfect bluewater sailing experience. I thought to myself: “No worries, there is a nice workshop here in the engine room, a solid bench, a great vise, and drawers of … say, where are the tools? Guess we’ll fix it at Shearwater.”
We were now puttering north in Fitz Hugh Sound. No smoke in the engine room, all was pretty good. There have been a few vessels wrecked in Fitz Hugh, and a few watery graves, as noted in the song “Shooting Down the Yuclataws” by Vancouver folksinger Brian Robertson. On this day, just the following breeze pushed Dusty’s unfurled jib. Took a left at Pointer Island and Kaiete Point, into Lama Passage, no llamas or Sasquatches there, so followed it right up past Bella Bella, then right past docks and cottages and houses with speedboats zipping around.
15:25. Josh phoned in – we were given a Shearwater dock. We tied up quickly and were into the grocery store by 16:07. We walked in and heard some commotion that made me wonder why the clerk was yelling at a young boy. Oh, he is her son, and was supposed to be home studying books, not asking permission to go for computer gaming. Hmm, could be some “escape” behavior. How could I deliver the Trauma Workshop Kit over to Bella Bella without creating more? There might be another conversation to come somewhere soon, so I thought I’d wander up the village and pose for the Photo of Ken leaning on the Shearwater town sign. Next: fresh wine and a three course meal to cook, including salad with mixed nuts and bacon bits.
Dec 7, Shearwater to KlemTu
09:30. We departed Shearwater. At 10:00 the fuel dock at Denny Island was finally open. A nice man let us fill the diesel tanks with no lectures about rationing. He said he knows Bella Bella and knows a therapy kind of person there. The Trauma Recovery Kit can be given to the community for group attuned learning and practice, instead of being held by an examining committee and officially moderated. I bought two logo ball caps, and he took the Kit. Thank you! We tossed the lines, turned the wheel hard over, KlemTu we were on our way. High clouds, deck snow gone, the Spirit lodge was beautiful but still a No Go zone.
13:00 We set the sails in Milbanke Sound – Prairie Dust was flying across the rolling open sea. It was lunch time! Josh was trying hard to keep a seagull on the solar panel. The clouds were heavy, but mountain tops were in view through a foggy mist. This passage was planned and very routine. We went past Salal Island, along the cold fog of Finlayson Channel. No logs there, the autopilot was great. I was on the bow taking photos.
15:55. KlemTu; Josh did a perfect docking job! We were now tied in. This mossy, free, tourist dock was cluttered with old nets, trolling gear, some piles of clothing, and was now covered with ice. KlemTu has the best WiFi Internet on the Coast, but what is it used for?
Now, I had a few Pandemic minutes to get the multicultural therapy teachings about trauma recovery into the hands of normal people, who could use the material to have group sessions; the program helps to reduce and regulate anxieties, and to stop any further hurts. Walking toward land, the black SUV that had watched Dusty dock, pulled away. I stood in the empty dirt parking lot beside a dust-covered RCMP station wagon. A man and woman came walking along the wet gravel shore-front road. On approaching them, it occurred to me they could have multi-generational traumas from colonialism. I stepped over and asked if they know the therapy people here. The man spoke slowly in simple sentences. The woman was neat as a pin, in white outfit and perfect hair, but never spoke – just smiled. On asking simply for: “who in the village helps people?” the man did not seem to understand, but wanted to help, offering to carry the Kit in his hands for the day. They walked away, on their daily routine.
Then, a sailing angel flashed by – a white pickup truck labelled Apex Plumbing and Heating. Yes, they are the ones. After all, who knows the inside of every home and residents’ abilities better? Predictable community relationships are health. The man driving stoped as I waved. The young woman rolled the window down. I gave my references and reasons, and explained how this is a USB drive of a 10 day seminar for the common, but dedicated helper, who has some trauma understanding. She stated they knew the right people and that they would deliver the Kit. I said thank you, and that it’s OK to watch the material or copy it for their own use. The package has 30 video talks, each over an hour long, on the various journeys and sciences of recovery. From neurology and fight-flight-freeze, to a story about a journey through being a homeless victim of violence and taking the recovering path, into becoming a calm loving friend who has the superpower of presence. The multicultural methods of being present are needed. The Kit is full of free choice to help or hinder. It is not a solo journey or mindfulness or yoga or part of the spiritual industry. It is for common people to learn in groups, not just administrator types, although they may need it too.
Now, one has to appreciate the larger context of KlemTu. For instance, a British tourist service, Frontier Canada, books people to visit this area and stay in the Spirit Lodge as a “Canadian Frontier”, for a lifetime vacation of touching Spirit Bears and Sasquatch. Chief Paul welcomes that. Will bears appear on schedule, or will the tourists just forgive any absent Spirit bears? Will the tourists then begin to experience the ways that our natural life and community can bring back our world? Consumerism is not a life focus, people are. Oh, but yes, cash for local safe schooling is good.
Now, us cruisers know that we can support and assist these sorts of isolated villages in our passage plan. We are not gawkers – ask Gina De Vere, author of “Blue Water Women”. In this world economy, these villages need the funds, goods and supplies, and good feelings from visitors, that are parts of our economic system. The communities depend on cash, so bring it, and bring other things like glasses, books, and solar panels for their schools. Totally self-supporting modern communities are yet to become common. We know a lot about this as a bluewater cruising sailboat is actually a self-supporting self-sustaining community. Consider what the children experience, and what they will need to be well when 2060 arrives.
Part 3 of this story is coming up in September. In Part 3, Ken and Josh arrive in Prince Rupert. Will it be an uneventful passage? Stay tuned!