Sunday, September 4, 2016

Return from Haida Gwaii

August 1: Crossing Hecate Strait Eastward
It was an invigorating day and a safe crossing of Hecate Strait, sailing NE with NW breeze for a heavenly beam reach in full sun, still bitingly cold, however. We had left Haida Gwaii from Sandspit and once getting to the deeper water on the east side of the strait, we were under full sail for several hours. 
Sailing in smooth seas, Hecate Strait
Back in the shallows of Dogfish Banks just off the Haida Gwaii coast, it had been too choppy to sail comfortably. Already the days were noticeably shorter, necessitating the shorter northern route. We pulled into a calm, pretty Spicer Island anchorage at 1845, well ahead of dark.

Spacious, protected, no-stress Spicer Island anchorage
The next day's goal: Spicer Islands to Monkton Inlet. The day began by going around the NE end of McCauley Island through the tide rips. We were tossed around a little with a steady 22 kt wind coming almost abeam, though made it through easily enough before turning south into Principe Channel on the east side of Banks Island for a smoother ride.
Sailing in Principe Channel
It was a chilly 59F in full sunshine but on the water, felt cold enough to pile on the ski bibs, hat, and a down jacket. We sailed smoothly downwind for hours with a brisk wind of 25 to 37 kts, passing one spouting humpy in a sea of wind waves, and with picturesque layers of mountains in background shades of blue and grey. A Canadian Coast Guard ship was the only vessel that passed us all day. Good to know they're around! We rounded the entry into Monkton Inlet and were immediately becalmed. Perfect for the night! It was spacious with several good options for dropping the anchor and with many scenic low rocky outcroppings. We weren't the only boat seeking refuge from the wind in Monkton that night. The trawler Western entered a short while later.

Monkton Inlet to Hartley Bay: The following day broke records for whale sightings. Leaving Monkton Inlet in a mist, we continued south through Principe Channel. Several whales gave their best show in the distance: spouting, fluking, and flipper-slapping! As we moved along, we encountered several other groups of active whales, about 18 altogether in several different groups, the closest just 50' to port. So close! We motored the entire day in light wind, trolling for salmon. While crossing the fishing grounds at the confluence of several major waterways full of small fish boats, we slowed to 3 kts hoping to catch our dinner. No luck. When we arrived at our planned stop in Couglin Anchorage, an open roadstead on one side, we couldn't set the anchor. It faced south with a forecast for a gusty southerly that night and the wind was already building. But just around the bend was Hartley Bay, a tiny, scenic First Nations community nestled against big hills with a modest boat marina filled with local boats. With no space available in the marina so late in the day, the dockmaster let us tie up at a dock just outside the breakwater.
True North at the old float in Hartley Bay
We walked the boardwalks throughout the small community of 170, stopping to talk with a resident who gave us the town scoop: no cars, cafes, or grocery stores but there is a school, community, cultural and medical centers. Everyone has jobs!
Boardwalk at Hartley Bay
Hartley Bay to Europa Hot Springs: Oddly, we motored across Whale Channel without seeing a single whale, and into a verdant Verney Passage, incredibly scenic with sheer rock wall mountains and forested hills on both sides. Some unattractive clear cuts, too. Our goal was to explore a little of the long and narrow Gardner Canal and possibly anchor for the night at one of the bays. As we passed by Europa Hot Springs and saw an available buoy, we stopped to check it out. 
The hot springs bath house at Europa Hot Springs
There was a kayaker over at the hot springs who paddled by to say hello. He was traveling solo with a bicycle strapped to his small, 6 pound plastic inflatable kayak! We launched True Dink and headed over for a brief soak.
Soaking in Europa Hot Springs
On the return as we neared our boat, we saw a whale spout very close to the stern. We hustled to board before it came between us and the boat while we were still in the more vulnerable dinghy, and it quickly disappeared. Mercy! Too close.Over the next few days we poked around in the untamed beauty of the B.C. fjords to see around every next bend. Beautiful Verney Passage led to the most stunning Gardner Canal with steep-to walls of smooth granite and trees, glaciers, green hanging valleys and wide waterfalls.
Brim River, Gardner Canal
We tied to a buoy in the deep water at Bishop Bay where several other boats were tied at the nearby dock, grilling fish and taking turns soaking in the hot springs at the shoreline. A good boardwalk parallels the shore through the woods and to the hot springs.
Visitor mementos, Bishop Hot Springs
Seems like a regular stop for some of the commercial fish boats. One was heading south for the season, having had a 24,000 pound salmon catch! He gave us a couple of fishing tips and a dose of encouragement on his way out. A few pleasure boats arrived for the night and anchored on the shelf.

When we left, we took the Inside Passage through Princess Royal Channel. The water was smooth as a lake. There are not many places to stop for a night along the deep channel. We briefly passed through Butedale, a former cannery with a single good dock, but it was too early in the day to stop for the night.

Butedale.  The buildings are not in as good a shape as they look!
Shortly after leaving Butedale, we came upon another whale spout in the distance. The strange thing about it, the whale stayed just under the surface, slightly visible at the water line, but doing nothing else in between spouts. We grabbed binoculars to take a closer look as it appeared it might be caught in a fishing net. Should we notify someone? We had heard the Canadian Coast Guard radio a securité several days earlier for just such an incident, warning boaters not to try to disengage the whale from the net. On second look with the binos, it looked like the whale was swimming alongside a log. Strange. Oh....oooh. There was no fish net or log but a pair of whales entwined together. We left quietly, quickly, and, fortunately, did not call the Coast Guard to report the location.
Two whales hanging out together
One might think that so many whale sightings would get old but they don't. One more whale story here and then unless something really unusual happens, we'll not report every future sighting. But! Just north of Heckish Narrows a dramatic whale show abeam of us went on endlessly as we passed by. A single whale lob-tailing, breaching, flipper-slapping, and fluking over and over again. We kept moving along slowly, leaving the entertaining performance behind.
As we entered Finlayson Channel, a 30 kt breeze suddenly picked up from the south – not the one forecast from the NW for later that evening. The weather throughout these narrow winding channels displays many different local patterns which change with the terrain, the curves and wrap-arounds, and each can't be individually forecast. We made it safely to Bottleneck Bay where SV Nimue and the charter boat Explorer IV were already peacefully anchored. The night sky surprised us around 0200 when lightning blindingly lit up the sky and thunder indicated it wasn't far away. We put the electronics into the oven for safekeeping and, luckily, we were surrounded by high hills.

August 7: Coming into Shearwater Marina the following afternoon we found the docks were full. We tied up at the overflow area to the rickety breakwater dock along with three other sailboats. Obviously, our dock lines were holding that dock together! A social event materialized with dinner out, followed by an exchange of recent activities into the night, aboard Nimue. Winging It and Crossroads had just arrived from Haida Gwaii, having encountered the horrendous thunderstorm the night before en route; Nimue from Alaska, and we discovered that we had met Nimue four years ago at Sullivan Bay. Spending time with people at the docks mixed with scenic wilderness anchorages makes a very good balance while out on the water for weeks at at time! 
Gathering at the pub in Shearwater
During the engine check just before leaving Shearwater, Gregg discovered a few drops of oil splattered on the engine, something he had been carefully monitoring for about a week when it began with the tiniest amount. We invited Nimue over for advice. Having rebuilt his boat from the bottom up, we respected this skipper's counsel. Consensus was that moving on would be okay and Nimue offered to buddy boat with us as a backup. We went together to Codville Marine Park a few hours away, and the next engine check showed only the same few drops. We parted ways the following day with plans to meet again in a few days at Fury Cove. 

We took the outside route along the coast to the McNaughton Anchorage. This was a place where we could launch the dinghy and explore the convoluted rocky shoreline and nearby anchorages. We had a whole day of sunshine, almost warm! From there we planned to stop at the Spider Islands, and since it would be only a few hours away we made an earnest effort to slow down and fish. We headed into Cultus Sound where there were already numerous sport fishing boats, dropped the boat speed to 2 kts, and circled closer towards shore following the other boats. The boat just ahead caught a fish! We were jealous... Within a minute Gregg caught a silvery 10-pound beautiful coho!
Finally the holy grail - a 10 lb salmon!
After fish prep, we saved the two largest fillets for Fury Cove and Nimue, and altogether we had four very fresh salmon meals. Our last night on the outside was in the Spider Islands, a stunning setting with a shoreline of low lying rocks. When we got to Fury Cove the following afternoon, it was “shorts and T-shirt” warm with full sun and the whitest sand beach. There were about a dozen boats in the anchorage but no Nimue in sight. We found out days later that they had gone south ahead of us in search of warmth. We understand!
Beach at Fury Cove

Fury Cove anchorage
We crossed Cape Caution the next day in thick, cold fog, sometimes down to about a quarter mile visibility, 0830 to 1830, a long day ending in Blunden Harbor.
Typical weather on our Cape Caution day
From there we left the next morning in another thick fog which gradually dissipated.  By 1030 the sky was clear and blue again. Spirits rose! Hundreds of birds were settled on the water all around us. We were heading for Jennis Bay, a small marina in the Broughtons we had never seen. There were just two other boats at the dock. Dan, friend of Allison the dockmaster, gave us a hearty welcome and helped with our lines.
Dan at Jennis Bay Marina
After scoping out the showers, we found a road leading from the marina for a welcome walk through the woods. Allison invited everyone from the dock to a potluck dinner with freshly caught grilled salmon, compliments of the marina! This small marina carries on with a generous spirit.
Jennis Bay Marina
August 15: We waited until noon to leave Jennis Bay so we could catch slack water through Stuart Narrows at 1300. While still in the area, we stopped at nearby Sullivan Bay Marina for a leisurely afternoon and evening on the docks. Immediately, we ran into Winging It and spent time catching up. This is a very popular spot for cruisers to gather and the docks were full of boats for the height of summer cruising. We scored with an end space looking out over the wide bay.
Sullivan Bay Marina
The marina is set up like a small village with owner-residents in eight or nine picturesque float houses along the docks, a grocery store, laundry, small cafe, seaplane dock, and 1-1/4 miles of boat docks, the only place for exercise. Socializing is the key: happy hour at 1700, followed by golf on the dock – if you can make a hole in one from the end of the dock into the net on the water, your moorage is free for the night! We paid.

The next afternoon we anchored in the scenic “toe” of Lady Boot Cove. Gregg made a delicate curry sauce for the last night's feast of the salmon he caught. The folksy music of a Portland band we had heard live in Bend called “True North” wafted out over the water from our CD, accompanied by a couple of screeching herons on shore. The majestic 60' schooner Maple Leaf pulled into the heel of the cove adjacent to our toe for a perfect scene of tranquility.

Not so far away, Echo Bay is another popular stop on the Broughtons' marina route. We hadn't planned to stay there but were interested in visiting with Billy Proctor, the 82 year old lifetimer of Simoon Sound whose two books we had read, filled with stories of his life in the area as a logger, fisherman, then activist against rampant abuse of each. We took the trail from the marina through the woods to talk with Billy and see his museum. He grumbled about over-fishing and waste by sport fishers.

Billy Proctor outside his museum
Back at the marina, dinner at Pierre's was halibut fish and chips! There were four other sailboats on the docks and later in the evening, we exchanged boat tours with one another.
A late morning departure directly into good wind enabled several hours under sail with the rare sight of four other sailboats doing the same, tacking back and forth across the channel for a lovely sight. We had been “racing” to catch up with the boat in front of us and as we got closer saw that it was Winging It. We gave them a radio call and found they were working on an engine problem while under sail so we sailed in the area with them until we knew the outcome. Problem fixed! We resumed our course further south. By 1730 we made our way into a cozy anchorage with rocky islets between Madrona and Leone Islands. A huge orange full moon rose over calm water for wow scenery!

Full moon in our Madrona Island anchorage
It was so perfectly gorgeous that we stayed another day to look around the neighboring islands and deploy the crab pot.
Another view of this gorgeous anchorage
We dinghied along the east side of Berry Island to look for the “Chief's Bathtub”, a natural low rock wall at the low tide waterline, and the pictograph on the wall next to it, both of which we had hunted for from a trail on land three summers earlier with friends. We found it!
Pictorgraph at Cheif's Bathtub
The first sight in the morning was of fog in the distance. We retrieved the crab trap with two large dungeness crabs and one super scary looking sculpin fish. We kept the crabs; Neptune got the fish!
Anne brings in the goods - two nice dungeness crabs!
We were not irrevocably committed to leaving in a dense fog; however, it was always about a quarter mile out from us so we proceeded to enter Blackney Pass. We were moving quite slowly against the tidal currents that sprouted in very confused seas, and to hear the fog horns from three tug and tows in front and behind us was altogether kind of spooky! We saw them on AIS and radar, and as we were pushed 180 degrees every which way, the closest points of contact for those tugs changed dramatically. Fortunately, the tugs were moving along even more slowly than we were.
Tug and tow in Blackney Pass
The fog finally lifted as we got closer to Johnstone Strait where the wind picked up for a steady 35 kt downwind sail. It is surprising how stable downwind sailing can be in wind like that.
Johnstone Straight before the wind picked up
There were seven other sailboats in the area, many of which took refuge from the wind right along with us in Forward Harbour for the night.
Crab feast in Forward Harbor
August 21: The morning brought drizzle and clouds but we were in no hurry to leave as the day's focus would be getting through slack in Whirlpool Rapids about noon. The water was calm as expected until we turned into Johnston Strait for a thrilling sail with regular gusts in the 40s. Still, we sailed along steadily, and going with the current our speed over ground surprised us with a max of 9.5 kts! That's 2 kts faster than the speed we're normally happy to reach.
Johnstone Straight with mature afternoon wind
Eventually we made our way into Small Inlet where the wind again picked up with gusts to 40 kts in the anchorage. The catspaws hit the water so hard they actually made a splash, like it was raining upwards, as another boater described it.  It was one of the few times that we set the anchor rode “seven to one” with an adrenaline fed compulsion. There would be no dragging that night.

Campbell River gave us two days of sun and warmth. The day we left Small Inlet, we seemed to have turned a weather corner just as we entered Discovery Passage at the north end of Seymour Narrows. The sky behind us to the north was dark and foreboding, full of thick clouds. Looking ahead it was clear.

Approaching Seymour Narrows
We had arrived in Campbell River wearing three layers of clothing to find everyone on land with just t-shirts and shorts! Walking down the dock we met a friend boat from Mexico, Aurora. What are the chances? We visited in between boat chores and while Gregg and I took off for the maritime museum, the ever self-sufficient skipper dove his boat to fix the prop!

The last week on the water became bittersweet when the end-of-summer reality hit us, yet getting closer to home was not an unattractive thought either. We were entering the more populated cruising grounds. In Gorge Harbour we met up with Crossroads. They were experiencing the same end-of-summer nostalgia.

Sunny weather at Gorge Harbor Marina
From there we moved on to Sturt Bay on Texada Island, launching the dinghy so we could walk the docks and a few blocks of a very tiny, quiet town.
Don't expect a posh night out...
In Pender Harbour we had planned ahead to meet up with another Mexico friend boat, L'Ange. We anchored next to them in Garden Bay, then got together to exchange stories over snacks and dinner.
L'Ange and True North at Garden Bay, Pender Harbor
We had hoped to spend the next day together at another anchorage but as the weather turned, so did we.....SE across Georgia Strait to Silva Bay while we had the chance before a 3-day southerly moved in! So we did sail part of the way across Georgia Straight before the wind died. After Silva Bay, we saw at one time 16 boats sailing north while we were gently bashing south in Trincomali Channel. Crossing Georgia Strait became quite interesting, not because of the weather but because it was a sunny Saturday and with so many boats out on the water the distress calls on VHF between the Coast Guard and boats in trouble were never-ending: a couple of Maydays, boats aground, boats that ran out of

We arrived at Ganges for an afternoon in town before the cold rain began. Leaving the next morning we sailed through Trincomali Channel for the short distance to Montague Harbour, always a favorite stop because of the hiking trail in the Marine Park, and its spacious, protected anchorage which on that day held about 75 boats. One of those boats was Arabesque from Vancouver. We agreed to meet later for a ride to the Hummingbird Pub which we had heard should not be missed, though we had never been there. What a trip! The Pub Bus is an old school bus operated by a free spirited driver. The music plays, everyone sings, and the tambourines and other musical noisemakers given to passengers on boarding, accompany the singing with silly glee!

True North and Arabesque sitting on milk crates in the back of the Hummingbird Pub bus
We couldn't quite reconcile ending the summer without a visit to vibrant Victoria. We got a slip in Sidney Marina for a day trip south in a double-decker bus and some “vacation” time to goof off while tromping around old familiar grounds. Victoria thrives! Murchies, The Empress, Il Terrazzo...and the new seaplane terminal on the waterfront is impressive!
Gregg in one of his favorite places - Roger's Chocolates in Victoria
September 1: With just one more night out on the water before returning to Anacortes, we anchored at Jones Island, an idyllic setting for reflections of the summer. So many golden opportunities become available while afloat!

Home grounds - Jones Island
Sailing time in favorable wind had materialized well and often enough, too. Another cruise with True North, home away from home since May 1, had been cozy, reliable and simply awesome!
Our chart on the bulkhead with our stops marked

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Crossing Hecate Strait to Haida Gwaii

June 29 – Spicer Islands to Queen Charlotte City Small Boat Harbor
The birds were still sleeping when we got up at 0315. We quickly made coffee, dressed for the dark, cold morning, and left the Spicer Islands. The forecast looked good: 5 to 15 kts, .4 meter seas at 12 seconds. The early morning departure was spectacular with a silver sliver of a moon shining over the tree tops and on through the water.
Early departure for Haida Gwaii
We sailed some of the time but mostly motored in calm seas with not another boat in sight until the last few miles. We were grateful for an easy crossing of what can be a stretch of wrathful fury under other conditions.
Smooth seas early in the trip
Landfall on Haida Gwaii was unusually striking with the very greenest of trees lining the shore as backdrop to a village of Haida style longhouses and totems that we later learned make up the Haida Heritage Center.
Haida Heritage Center
We passed by the more exposed Sandspit Marina, opting instead for the Small Boat Harbor in Queen Charlotte City, deep in the inlet, for the forecast the following night was for a big blow of 35-40 kts.. Just as we got close to the marina a steady, cold rain began which lasted until shortly after we were tied at the dock, enough to soak everything!

True North in Queen Charlotte City
First morning on Haida Gwaii: how exciting it was to be here, so far from everywhere! After checking in with the harbormaster, Gregg returned with a couple of peach-blueberry muffins from Queen Bee's near the head of the dock. Nice find! We were to find other good eateries during our stay, a welcome break from our more limited galley fare. For a morning stretch, we began walking the main road towards the ferry dock when an older Haida resident stopped to see if we wanted a ride to the Heritage Center, a couple of miles away. Sure! Along the way, Dick explained that he was starting a tour guiding business and asked if he might take us for a trial run so he could get a little feedback. We took him up on his offer the next day. In the meantime, we visited the museum with its huge collection of Haida artifacts and history, and tours of the totems and cedar weavings.
The Bill Reid totem pole, Haida Heritage Center
 A highlight of the day was meeting up with Mary and Lucy, friends from home who were finishing a road trip around north Haida Gwaii. They took us to Roberta's for a most unique dining experience, where her welcoming home overlooks Hecate Strait. Her Haida family prepares a beautiful meal with local seafood and as each course is served by her grand-daughters, Roberta describes the local delicacies: octopus, herring roe on seaweed, halibut soup, 3 kinds of salmon, and local strawberries with cream and cake. It was a great way for Mary and Lucy to end their time on Haida Gwaii and for us to begin ours.
Mary, Lucy, Gregg, Anne
We had a couple of days in QCC before picking up our rental car to tour Graham Island in the north. There were plenty of cruisers coming and going, a small but healthy farmers' market, a couple of grocery stores to visit and the Visitor's Center.
Absolutely exquisite giant tomatoes from the Farmer's Market
There were eagles everywhere in that harbor...lots of fish guts at the cleaning stations, too!
Eagle on mast, Queen Charlotte City
July 1: It was Canada Day but not much was happening in small QCC. We spent a couple of enjoyable hours touring with Dick Bellis, the Haida local who had volunteered to show us around. He introduced us to his nephew, an argillite carver of some renown living in a beach house nearby, and pointed out his own wood carvings which stand prominently around town.
Michael Brown and one of his argillite carvings
We stopped by Dick's home in Skidegate to see his small collection of old cedar woven hats, real beauties with an ermine skin attached at the tops.
Dick and one of his cedar hats
And he gave us a tour of the town, pointing out the totems and who lives here and there. Very interesting couple of hours!

For the next three days, we toured Graham Island by car. First stop was Tlell where we had reserved a cabin in a grassy clearing in the woods, not far from the more notable Haida House.
Our cabin in Tlell
Sweet! We lucked out there. It was spotless, cozy, and within walking distance to the beach on one side and just down the road to the best dinner ever at the Haida House.
Dinner at the Haida House
We hated to leave but did go on to Port Clements the following day. There used to be two big hallmarks there, both included in the town logo and both now gone: the legendary golden spruce, a 300-year-old Sitka spruce 50 meters tall and covered with brilliant golden needles, and which was felled one night by a conservation-minded logger, activist.
The fallen snag is the remains of the Golden Spruce
The other was the extremely rare albino raven that made an ill-fated landing on a live wire. There is a hike to the site where the golden spruce once stood, and the raven's remains live on in the logging museum.
Albino Raven, dead but not gone!
We hiked the trail, took in the logging museum, drove on to Massett, and then the Haida village of Old Massett where we found our B&B, located right on Massett Inlet. A walk through the old village, which was not full of historic native longhouses and totems as we had expected, brought us through the few streets of mossy covered wood houses and more modern totems standing. We found an “open” sign for an argillite carver and knocked on the door to find Myles Edgars, exquisite Haida argillite carver. He showed us a finely carved 15” totem. He would make us a deal...$7,000 instead of $10,000! We settled on a small raven instead, which he carved for us that evening and gave to us when we returned the following day.
Gregg with Myles Edgars and the raven he carved for us
A few miles down the North Beach road, we walked the well-maintained boardwalk to the top of Tow Hill, a prominent landmark with steep basalt cliffs overlooking Agate Beach and the ocean beyond.
Tow Hill, North Beach, Graham Island
Our brief road trip ended where it began in QCC on a cold, rainy day with a high wind forecast. There were at least a half dozen other boats waiting in the marina for a fair weather break before setting out south to Gwaii Haanas National Park where the anchorages at the Haida cultural sites have sketchy holding with lots of rocks! There are a few mooring buoys but none of us knew if they were secure. We passed some of the extra time at the visitors center watching a very moving film about the repatriation of Haida ancestral remains from a Chicago Museum.

Balance Rock, Skidegate

Eagle, Skidegate
Two main islands plus 150 islets make up the Haida Gwaii archipelago. It lies on the western edge of the North American continent with a deep trench just off the coast. There have been two major earthquakes on Haida Gwaii, the most recent a 7.7 mag in 2012. Definitely not the place to be in a small boat during a tsunami! Haida Watchmen conduct tours at the five abandoned Haida cultural sites, with no more than 12 visitors touring at a time, keeping it serene. There are no roads within the National Park. Each visiting boat calls the watchman cabin, waits for permission to come ashore, then is typically greeted at the beach by a watchman for about a 1-1/2 hour guided tour in an enchanting environment that holds a very strong sense of its ancient spirit.
Hoisting our Haida Nation courtesy flag below the Canadian flag.  Note ski hat, woolen hoodie in July!
Finally, July 9th as the weather cleared for leaving, the marina cleared out! The first black bear sighting motivated us to reach for the binoculars at every passing beach.
Black bear looking for seafood treats
Over the next two weeks we found a few other bears, whale sightings almost daily, and tons of seabirds. Don't ask! It wasn't easy to match them with the bird pictures! Our first destination was Skedans, aka K'uuna Llangaay, located on the NE end of Louise Island. We anchored securely in a pretty, open cove with low rocky islands nearby.
Temporary anchorage at Skedans
The boat Coast Pilot, friends of Seattle friends, gave us a lift to shore in their skiff where a young Watchman Nick met us at the beach and showed us around.
Watchman Nick telling us the history of Skedans
What remains today are a few standing carved memorial and mortuary poles and the mossy covered logs and depressions where several longhouses had been. The tidal range is huge throughout the islands meaning that during the tour, Ian made his way back to the beach to move his heavy skiff a little higher ashore!
Gregg, Ian, Linda, Watchman Nick at Skedans
We sailed a few hours after leaving before heading to the secure anchorage in Thurston Harbor. Eight other boats came into the harbor that night, and Coast Pilot joined us for happy hour, a very fun evening with Ian and Linda.
Coast Pilot and Raven at Thurston Harbor.  Note logging scars - still outside the Park.
The next morning we motored over to Tanu (T'aanuu Llnagaay). Again, we hitched a ride to shore with Coast Pilot. True Dink was still tied down on deck. Our Watchman Walter met us along the beach to show us a map posted to a tree with a sketch of the village the way it once was, circling the beach with 25 to 40 longhouses in a village, many mortuary poles and houses.
Watchman Walter with cedar map of Tanu
Today there are mostly the abandoned remains of moss covered house posts.
Remains of longhouse, Tanu
It is a very spiritual place for the Haida as there are burial sites along the hills. Walter brought us to his cabin where his wife Mary and their young daughter graciously served up a batch of hot fry bread they had just prepared. Such a warm welcome!
Walter and his daughter
Mary's fry bread at Tanu
Walter, Ian, Linda, Anne at Tanu
Windy Bay (Hlk'yag GawGa), the next Haida site we visited was just 1-1/2 hours south so we motored on while the good weather continued. We tried to catch a mooring ball but seeing a 12' depth with a rocky shoreline nearby, backed off. Scarily shallow! We tried 3 times to set the anchor in the rocky bottom to no avail; same for Coast Pilot so they decided to move on. As the tide was rising, we checked the mooring ball again to find it acceptable at 17' and rising. Fine for the 1-2 hours we would be there! We dinghied to a rocky beach shore and wheeled True Dink high onto shore. We had to cross a couple of rising streams to get to the Watchman Vince and we did get wet! A jovial group of five kayakers from Calgary touring with the charter boat Island Bay waited for us to join them.
Watchman Vince at Windy Bay
Windy Bay is located on the east side of Lyell Island, one of the sites where Haida protested logging in a stand-off against loggers in the 80s. It led to the creation of Gwaii Haanas National Park and Heritage Site and the end of rampant logging within the park. There is a Legacy Pole on the beach, the first monumental pole raised in Gwaii Haanas in 130 years, which commemorates the 20th anniversary of the cooperative management between Canada and the Haida. The main attraction at Windy Bay is a hike through old growth western hemlock, western red cedar and Sitka spruce, with one giant 800-900 year old Sitka spruce.
Hiking at Windy Bay
Anne and giant Sitka spruce, Windy Bay
There are a few mossy logs near pits remaining but no vintage totems here. As the wind picked up in the late afternoon we took refuge in Haswell Harbor, an anchorage described as bombproof. We stayed for two nights, soaking in a little R&R – no tides to concern us from the center of the anchorage, well-protected, and with two streams of cascading water. A resident eagle perched high above scanned the outflow for an easy meal. Meanwhile, we dinghied around the bay at low tide to walk the rocky shoreline and while in this pretty little harbor, celebrated our anniversary, #24!

Haswell Bay
July 12: Haswell Bay to Hotsprings Island to Bag Harbor – 0700 departure for Hotsprings Island (Gandll K'in Gwaay.yaay), the 4th cultural stop for us. An early arrival might increase our chances of securing the only buoy. There wasn't a single other boat around! We took the dinghy to shore and met our watchman David for a walk around the natural hot springs.
Gregg and Watchman David with a (former) hotspring tub, now cold
Mostly they are the former hotsprings. This used to be one of the most popular stops for cruisers, kayakers, tours and seaplanes stopping by for a soak but the earthquake in 2012 changed the landscape so there isn't much water filling them now. The tide was ebbing and the shallow water where our dinghy was anchored was drying quickly so we left after a brief tour.

A bumpy 3' chop was coming from the SE. The forecast wasn't expected to be good for the next few days. We were working our way around to Rose Inlet, and Anthony Island (SGang Gwaay), a small island off the southwest coast of Moresby, the last stop on the cultural tour and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it looked like it would be another 5 days before we could safely anchor there because of a the high wind. Anticipating the worst we tucked into Bag Harbor, a wide, almost lake-like anchorage at the south end of Dolomite Narrows. It was completely calm with the added serenity of a mountain view at the end of the harbor.
Bag Harbor, very protected
Two other sailboats arrived for the night. It had been a great day for wildlife sightings! Along the way we spotted a large black bear on the rocky point at the south end of Burnaby Island turning over rocks scavenging for food, and earlier in the day we encountered dolphins, a humpy, and a single seal though we didn't see a single boat.
Humpback showing flukes
July 13: We got a lucky break in the weather the following day so proceeded to Rose Harbor, also well protected. We found Coast Pilot already there. They had been to SGang Gwaay earlier that day and, as it was getting late with a forecast for foul weather the following day, we pulled our anchor to make a run for it then.
Leaving Rose Harbor for SGang Gwaay, Coast Pilot at anchor
It was easy going. We anchored in the north anchorage where the holding can be just fair, but the weather was calm and our anchor took hold.
True North in the Northwest temporary anchorage at SGang Gwaay
A few kayak groups were leaving as we arrived and were greeted at the Watchmen cabin by Donna, our guide. She took us to see a few standing totems first.
Watchman Donna discussing the poles at SGang Gwaay
They were carved before the village was abandoned in the late 1800s. Most of them had fallen over with age but these had been carefully placed upright again in 1975. The moss covered signs of abandoned longhouses remain overlooking the bay, and the beyond them stand another dozen totems.
Gregg and Anne with SSPS burgee, SGang Gwaay
This was the last village to have been occupied on a full-time basis. A hill at the far end of the old village marks the burial ground where thousands of Haida ancestors who died from smallpox are buried. For this reason, it is a sacred site. This splendid site holds a certain mystique and was our last stop on the cultural route.
Totem Park at SGang Gwaay
Abandoned longhouse behind the totems, SGang Gwaay
There are other abandoned Haida sites but sailing along the perilous western rocky shore to access them in fair holding held no appeal! The watchmen were awesome with their friendly hospitality, and keeping their cultural history alive was much appreciated.

We remained in Rose Harbor three days longer than planned because we were both feeling a bit under the weather, trading turns at needing another day to recover. It gave us a lot more time to explore the remains of an old whaling station and talk with the locals, as well as other cruisers coming and going – Relentless, Great Bear, Good Fortune, and tiny, 24' SoSo.
Haida canoe in forest, builders died of smallpox before they finished it
Gregg with whale bone relic at old whaling station

Rose Harbor has rocky outcrops and islets which harbor an abundance of seabirds. If we were to guess which birds we saw after carefully comparing with a guidebook, our list would now include many noisy oystercatchers, majestic eagles, squawky ravens, a blue heron, glaucous-winged gulls, marbled murrelets, and many other little grey or black or white birds we couldn't identify.
Anne at the helm of True Dink
July 18: Nice as Rose Harbor was, we were ready to move on. The day came with a NW wind on the bow of about 4 to 8 kts so was an easy bash. As we approached NE corner of Burnaby Island, a yacht coming our way called to advise us of the rip tides ahead which were barely visible to us, but as we altered our course away from land another two miles we could see we avoided 6' waves. We anchored in Hutton Cove at the mouth of the inlet. It is beautiful! We set the crab trap and settled in to soak up the sunlight. Then the wind picked up..... Because this was an anchorage of only fair to good holding, we decided to test the anchor again, pulling it hard. It held, then slipped, held, slipped. We left and went to the more secure head of the inlet for a peaceful night.

After a refreshing three hour sail through Darwin Inlet in full sun we arrived at Echo Bay, a beautiful setting with many birds, a waterfall and places to walk. Not another boat in sight all day!

Gregg heard the hwoosh of a whale and after a quick scan a humpy surfaced about 100' off our port side...that's close! We sailed to more scenic anchorages on the way north, Anna Inlet, McEchran Cove, and finally Crescent Inlet where we spotted three bears in the grassy area at its head. Plenty of bears and eagles but no crabs in our pot! Sandspit Marina was the final stop for this part of the passage where we docked True North among a crowd of small fishing boats to prepare for a weather break and our return to the B.C. mainland. Next leg: crossing Hecate Strait east to get back to the B.C. mainland.
Gregg and Anne do a selfie in Anna Inlet