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Monday, August 13, 2012

Wildlife Back on the Job

Fourth in a series of blog posts by Executive Director Karen Wristen as she and her husband Jasper sail their 40' Newporter sailboat “Viajador” north to Sointula.

Day four: Campbell River to Kelsey Bay 

Hah! That worked. Anyone who headed to Kelsey Bay today would have enjoyed watching transient Orcas pass by. They failed to escape my notice at the north end of Discovery Passage, although they were traveling so fast that they did escape my camera! In the lead were 5 adults, rising and blowing with a precision that would have put the synchronized swim team to shame. They were followed by two adults and a calf, with the calf nestled right against the side of one of the adults.

We also saw porpoise, briefly surfacing twice in Johnstone Strait; on both occasions, their dives were followed immediately by leaping sockeye, looking for all the world as if they were trying to swim through the air.

Our day got off to an interesting start when the chart plotter decided to pack it in at the dock at Campbell River. The same chart plotter that just came back from being tested at Siemens, because it's done this to us before, and was pronounced healthy. It's not as if you really need the device to get from Campbell River to Sointula — there's just not much chance of getting lost—but it is a comfort to have the depth soundings if you're going to explore any of the smaller channels, or if the weather comes up and you need to tuck in somewhere where you don't know what the bottom is like.

And the weather did 'come up' some, during this leg of the journey!

Chatham Point Light Station
It wasn't so bad rounding the corner at Chatham Point; it just got really cold quite suddenly, sending me scurrying for the winter sweater and windbreaker. The wind was maybe 15 knots and the sea unremarkable. It was only a little later, as our heading became more westerly, that the going got seriously rough—the wind rose to 20-25, making the rigging sing with that "you're really at sea now!" sound, while the waves rose to a meter and a half at times. Strangely (and happily) at the same time, the temperature rose dramatically.

Viajador on Johnstone Strait
The nasty spell lasted long enough to have us seriously considering heading up into Blind Channel for the night, as we recalled Kelsey Bay being less than calm during a blow. We had also to consider the potential for fog, clearly evident ahead although not yet touching the water. Without the chart plotter and with the backup GPS still trying to figure out the satellites, we'd be truly blind in a fog. Weighed against that was the fact that our prawn traps were aboard a friend's boat in Kelsey Bay and he was to meet us there to hand them over.

We really like prawns, so we decided to try going a little further than Blind Channel, keeping a wary eye on the fog and hugging the south shore of Johnstone Strait for the protection afforded by the headlands, to see if conditions improved at all; and they did. And then they got worse, and better, and so on, until just as we entered Kelsey Bay, when the water came at us from every direction and everything that isn't nailed down on the boat learned to fly.

Boats tucked in anywhere they could find still water along the Strait
Naturally, since the weather was what it was, Kelsey Bay was as full as it gets and the only spot we could raft on was, fortunately, our friend's boat. We didn't hesitate to rob his supply of bumpers to separate our boats as they were both pitching so violently that there was a danger of our rigging becoming one with his stabilizers. The friend arrived soon after we'd tied up and an evening of tall tales accompanied by soft jazz, candlelight, good food and wine helped us ignore the fact that we continued to rock and roll until nearly midnight.

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