The apogee, or top of our curving route north.
As we swing gently around the anchor in the Octopus Islands, the bow gradually points southward, influenced by the veering winds of the first cold front of the next season passing overhead. The stationary Pacific high pressure of August may be giving way to the lows from the Gulf of Alaska, giving us overcast and showers for the first time in weeks. As we check the shoreline now, a few Birch trees have added patches of yellow to the evergreen forest. Yesterday, we swam off the boat and I snorkeled underneath to check the prop zinc (loose again, argh); today, the diesel heater purrs like an old friendly cat, and we contemplate turning south. Such is the end of summer in the Pacific Northwest, and Laysan swinging her bow southward for the first time in three months seems to know this.
Campbell River marinas were a nice respite for provisioning stops as we said goodbye to Julia and John B who drove away towards Colorado and Montana. For two weeks, we cruised off the grid with a full crew of five and still managed to remain self sufficient with food and water; although some foraging by the youths for oysters, apples and wild blackberries was required to keep the troops’ appetites sated. Good provisioning, Kathleen! Then, we sadly sent Connor, our reliable second mate, off again to Utah for his studies and, to his great relief, unlimited high speed internet. In Campbell River, we enjoyed dinner with friends John and Naomi, and met their parents who have nicely followed Laysan’s blog through the years.
The last few days have been a greatest hits cruise with Steven after he arrived by an epic seaplane landing off Prideaux. Our friends Don and Sharry on Starr anchored nearby and invited us for an evening potluck with their friends. The next morning an enterprising young fisherman sold fresh prawns by patrolling the anchorage in his commercial boat like a neighborhood ice cream truck of the old days. I had to row the dinghy over to line up with the other hungry rubber boats and get my treat from the nice man. (On our future wish list is an electric winch to pull up the 300′ of lead line necessary for a prawn trap of our very own). The next “hit” was a return to Oyster Cove for you guessed it, the oyster bucket buffet picked up at low tide. Sadly, however, the salmon continue to elude us. But did I mention the crabs? Oh boy!
One late afternoon in the anchorage, a boat seemed to be racing directly toward us with Kathleen stiffening her stance and alerting me to this unusual activity. Suddenly a call from their bridge, “Do you have a doctor on board? My son has a fish hook in his eye!” “Yes” she answered, “Anchor behind us, and we will come over!” Gathering my medical kit and powerful end cutting wire snips, we rowed over as good Samaritans in an isolated location. The brave young man had a treble hook embedded in the eyelid and brow, but no involvement of the globe. Unfortunately, the hooks were all barbed, so exposing the tips and cutting them away was a lengthy two step procedure, using half of my lidocaine supply, much to the fascination of his siblings. A couple of days later, he looked fine as he showed me the big red snappers he just caught, hopefully with the highly recommended barbless hooks.
After a five hour run north and through Hole in the Wall Rapids, here we swing again among the Octopus Islands at our furthest north latitude in Desolation Sound for one more day of hiking and paddling. The trail to Newton Lake is on schedule again for tomorrow, rain or shine, as it was a favorite of the summer. Notably, our friend from Campbell River, John, introduced us to his father, Dave, who actually built this trail among many others in Desolation Sound years ago. Amazing! John and Dave, both great fellows, know the rocks and waterways of this area from the time before GPS, like only locals can.
Even within ten minutes of slack current, Hole in the Wall Rapids offered up some boils and whirlpools requiring my full attention at hand steering. With the wind gusting to 30 knots abeam and the subsurface water pushing against the keel differently than the surface water at the rip current lines, we got both roll and yaw changes creating a few shrieks from the crew. And that was with only 1.5 knots of current. Imagine the forces involved at maximum current of 7 or 8 knots, or even 17 knots like Skookumchuck Narrows, which we hope to visit on our way south. Stories are told of logs and even boats being pulled down by the whirlpools only to shoot skyward again like missiles, piercing other unsuspecting hulls at the surface. Hopefully, we continue to witness those currents only from the safety of the shoreline.
So that’s the news from the top of the Salish Sea. We will report on the sights and sounds of the journey south. As the Ent said, “I like heading south, it always feels like going downhill.” All the best to our friends and family. Thanks for listening.