Blaine, WA to Bella Bella, BC (Part 2)

I’ve learned a few basic rules about cruising British Columbia’s Inland Passage since beginning this cruise. Most important, you will not be disappointed if you expect gray, rainy and cold weather. The weather, at least this early in the cruising season, is like San Francisco Bay in the winter – not much wind but cold. Another problem up here is that the wind seems to always blow down the channels formed by the islands.

Anchoring can also be a problem because the sea bed drops off abruptly along the shores. That said, the first night out from Campbell River we anchored in Billy Goat Bay (a tiny cove). It is a truly idyllic spot with room for only one boat.

 Billy Goat Bay at Helmcken Island

The next day we moved on to the Salmon Coast Field Station. Ivan, the skipper, has a long history with this research facility, he worked on battery for fish finder systems and contributed well to the effort. There was no question that we were welcome to use their dock. The Field Station is located at the head of Echo Bay on Gilford Island.

Kittewake docked in Echo Bay

Salmon Coast Field Station

The main focus of their research has been the investigation of the effect of sea lice on wild salmon. The sea lice are the result of salmon farming which is extensive up here. Wild salmon fry (baby salmon) die if infected with the lice. The fear is that the wild salmon in this area are going to become extinct due to this.

That night we had dinner with the people at the Field Station and exchanged stories including lots about brown bears.

This morning we left the Salmon Coast Field Station. As in the past, we were head-to-wind in the narrow channels, but things changed when we entered Queen Charlotte Straight. We were able to sail across the Strait, but had to use the engine again to make it through the channel to Port McNeill.

The best part about the sailing and motoring to Port McNeill was the glorious sun. This is the first time we have had full sun for any appreciable length of time.

We’ll spend two nights at Port McNeill because the depth sounder failed. It takes a long time to get replacement parts here and anyway it would require hauling the boat and some major work. Plan B is to install a stand-alone depth/fish finder. Ivan bought that today and all that remains is to build a mount for the sensor. We’ll do that tomorrow and on Saturday start heading to Bella Bella from which I will fly home on May 12. Ivan is continuing to Glacier Bay Alaska.

The route from Port McNeill to Bella Bella is the only stretch where we will be exposed to the open ocean. The crux is rounding Cape Caution. We have more than enough time to wait out bad weather but if we don’t have to do that then we can finish off this leg with short days and stopping at more places.

So far we have traveled 265 nm. By the shortest route we have 120 nm remaining but anchorages will take us off that route.


Marcus Libkind

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