Words by Les and Kel Rohlf
Photos by Kel Rohlf (unless otherwise indicated)
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Prince Rupert to Lowe Inlet
Prince Rupert harbor was busy with several arrivals/departureswhen we left at 7:15am. We experienced showers off and on all day with some occasional sunshine. Waters were generally smooth except for choppy sections in the open water south of the harbor and in sections of the Grenville Channel where the southwest wind could funnel through.
We caught up with SYBO near the north end of Grenville Channel; they were sailing into the southwest breeze and were planning to go offshore today and stay there for a couple hundred miles. Winds forecast from the northwest for the next few days should help their progress.
We were the first boat to arrive at Lowe Inlet at 4:30 pm and anchored in front of Verney Falls. You can anchor close to the falls, and the current will keep your boat from swinging. Two more boats arrived and anchored later in the day.
We grilled steaks for dinner and watched as a black bear fished for salmon jumping in Verney Falls.
Monday, August 30, 2021
Lowe Inlet to Swanson Bay
We left our anchorage at 7:00am, shortly after sunrise. There were two bears at the falls as we prepared to leave. As we entered Wright Sound just south of Hartley Bay, we noticed a huge fogbank the width of Douglas Channel, despite it being otherwise clear and sunny this morning.
As I commented about not wanting to have to go through that, I saw a whale breach close to the bank and just east of Cape Farewell. Several whales breached, some entirely clear of the water. Another was tail slapping as the others breached. We just watched from a mile away, enjoying the show rather than trying to get closer for photos. Several other whales appeared as we transited Wright Sound and McKay Reach.
Clouds and showers closed in as we headed south in Fraser Reach and pulled into Swanson Bay about 3:30pm. The bay is not long or far removed from the main channel, but offers protection from the forecast northwest winds. I was unable to get the anchor to set in the northwest corner of the bay, so we moved to a point south of the old pulp mill ruins. We’re anchored in 45 feet of water, with a little more room to swing. I commented that the bay is a nice place unless someone big comes along through the nearby channel. Not more than an hour later, the Northern Expedition chugged up Fraser Reach and passed little more than a half mile away.
She was 3.5 miles away by the time her wake hit us. The wake turned out to be not bad, unlike the steep 3- to 4-foot rollers we experienced in the narrow Grenville Channel from one of her sister ships.
Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Swanson Bay to Shearwater
Miles today: 79
Low clouds greeted us this morning, but it remained dry. We headed out of Swanson Bay at 7:15am and into a choppy Fraser Reach. The good news – this was the worst sea state we’d see all day. I planned a little different route to Shearwater than we had taken on our way north to both allow for better protection and to see some new scenery. After breakfast we ran on plane to make time on this longer mileage day.
We turned into Hiekish Narrows, which leads to a point farther north in Finlayson Channel than we’d previously been. After traveling south to a point abeam Klemtu, we turned east into Jackson Passage. Jackson Passage includes Jackson Narrows at its eastern end where it meets Mathieson Channel. This was a pretty passage and worth the trip. There are a couple inviting anchorage areas at the eastern end.
The sun finally broke through as we headed south through Mathieson Channel, a very pretty passage with very little debris in the water. At its south end we cut across to Percival Narrows, which gives a protected route to Seaforth Channel, allowing us to avoid Millbank South. We went slowly through Percival, which looks a little scary on the charts but has plenty of water (we never saw less than 27 feet on today’s 10-foot mid-tide. We passed through during the ebb, but today’s drop was only 2 feet, so no issues with currents.
After turning into Seaforth Channel, we pushed the throttle up and ran across the big, wide swells for a few miles until their affects dissipated. The sky was clear when we passed Dryad Point and turned into the harbor at Shearwater Resort. There seems to be more happening at Shearwater than during our first visit in June. We enjoyed wandering the grounds and eating ice cream on a sunny afternoon. While not really busy, all the facilities are open. There are a few other cruisers docked here, along with three 100+ foot mega-yachts.
Since the first part of transit across Canadian waters retraces waterways that we had traveled before, I set my sights on organizing my journals and art supplies to use while we cruised. Thankfully we’ve had fairly calm waters, so most of the time I sat in my aft seat in our kitchenette puttering away.
Les chose two anchorages we hadn’t been to on our travels to Alaska. After leaving Alaskan waters, I didn’t think we’d see anymore bears or whales because we hadn’t seen any on the way up north. But that was June, and in August the salmon are running and the whales are still active.
We are cruising 8 hour days average now to cover the 750 plus miles to return to Everett, Washington. So when we drop anchor we’re both pretty tired, and still have to make dinner and get settled for the evening. At Lowe Inlet, our first anchorage along this route, we anchored right next to Verny Falls that pours out of a lake. As Les pulled out the grill, there were intermittent rain showers. The first surprise of the evening was a brilliant rainbow arcing over the waterfall.
After the rainbow and a delicious steak dinner, I decided to get some video of the waterfall. Les was plotting the chart for the next leg of the trip. As I watched the waterfall I noticed some movement at one edge. I hollered to Les, “I think I see a bear.” He came out and sure enough a black bear was catching salmon, and then climbing up a rock to go eat it. The bear repeated this feat three or four times, and I was able to get some decent photos. What an unexpected evening of entertainment!
The next day we were cruising to Swanson Bay. On the way we had to cross a couple channels and Les noticed whales breaching, and one tail slapping. I spent the rest of the day doing some more work with my art journals and we listened to Robinson Crusoe on CD for about an hour. The rest of the time we enjoyed the gorgeous scenery. This part of the trip is spectacular, and we feel very fortunate to see it again, and also hope to check out some new spots as well.
Today we arrived at Shearwater, a resort near a First Nations town called Bella Bella. Last time here, we were only able to dock for gas, and then anchor in a nearby bay. This time we have a moorage at the resort marina. Just up the walkway we were able to enjoy all the amenities: a laundry/shower facility, an ice cream shop which also sold various items including art supplies, a well stocked grocery and a waterfront restaurant. We partook of all.
It’s amazing the difference of being able to stretch our legs and get what we need or want. It was a nice break after three days of cruising.