We planned one or two more quick stops in Quatsino Sound, then heard the weather forecast. It was blowing a gale at the Brooks Peninsula, and would continue for a week. The amateur weather forecaster in me looking at the weather charts saw the North Pacific high and a huge low in the Aleutian Islands pushing up against the high, causing it to compress against the mountains on Vancouver Island. Every day and night for a week the winds would be 25-35, which was way too boisterous for us to make a rounding of the Brooks.
We realized this may be the only time we get this far north, so we’re happy to get to see more of this beautiful sound. There are plenty of anchorages to explore and few boats to compete for spots with.
We headed inland into Quatsino Sound, anchoring first in the beautiful little Julian Cove. The next morning we had the Quatsino Narrows to deal with (who knew there were narrows on the west side?). As with all other narrows that run 7 knots, we had to wait for slack and go in the small window of time when we would have enough power to steer the course we want and not be overpowered by the current.
Inside the narrows was the small town of Coal Harbor, which has a paved road to Port Hardy on the east side of the island. There were no groceries in Coal Harbor so I was planning to take a taxi in for shopping. Then I learned that Port Alice, the largest town in Quatsino Sound, had a very large grocery. So we decided to visit one more harbor inside the narrows then head back out.
Varney Bay is a small cove at the end of the Marble River, which is fed by 7.5 mile long Lake Alice high in the mountains. It was a very large bay but only a small portion was deep enough to anchor, and sure enough I wasn’t paying close enough attention when looking for our spot. When the depth sounder went from 40′ to 11′ and right to 6’1”, Rob couldn’t call out for me to turn because it happened too fast. Then we were aground because we draw 6’2”. We needed high tide to get the dink up the river for a tour, so we had come in on a rising tide and it only took about 5 minutes to get lifted off the mud and turned around and anchored. The water in the pic above is all too shallow for us to anchor in.
The dinghy trip was a great adventure, with a cool canyon and caves.
The next morning we headed back out through the narrows and up another long channel to Port Alice. Turns out Port Alice is the name of the former pulp mill that closed down several years ago, and Rumble Beach is the town that housed the mill workers. This lovely little town has readjusted to the mill closure and now is populated with retirees and workers in the timber and fishing industries. And they have a huge grocery store, so the boat finally has a fridge full of fresh fruits.
The last of our big challenges on this trip was the rounding of the Brooks Peninsula. It extends 6 miles into the ocean and takes the best part of a day to get around. And of course what follows when the gales blow for a week? No wind. So we motored around for another 40+ mile day, this one mostly in waters that felt like a washing machine set to the highest scrub setting.
This morning Kallee got up and went straight into hiding in the aft cabin, totally protesting the idea of any more days like yesterday. We assured her that was the last of the worst passages. We’re in the Bunsby Islands now hoping the sun breaks through the clouds and the weather holds so we can explore for a few days and chill.