After leaving Hornby Island, we beat our way northwest for almost 40 nautical miles. We passed close to Mittlenach Provincial Nature Park and debated stopping in a tiny bay called Camp Bay. This island is reported to be a Glaucous Wing Gull nursery, but as we were passing we saw only a few gulls parked here and there and a couple of cormorants. The little bay looked too little and there were not thousands of birds to experience, so on we went. Soon, Leslie was anchored in the bow with our long telephoto lens, taking photos of a zillion Stellar sea lions. It seemed that there were two harems with bulls snorting and swimming and keeping busy while their many ‘girls’ lifted their sleepy heads and watched us slowly pass by.
Two days later, we were staged in Frances Bay, ready to ‘run the rapids’. Val has been sitting below surrounded by charts, books and computers and has calculated the best times to run through a bunch of the upcoming 5 rapids. We make a ‘Rapid Plan,’ relying heavily on the essential Ports and Passes – 2016, and estimating currents and travel times. We have passed through narrow channels where strong tidal currents have run before, but just one at a time, and we have selected times when the current was minimal. To get through a bunch in one run, we have to enter some before they are slack and while they are running against us, and then enter others while slack or after the current has turned in our favor. Much in our favor, this trip is when the moon and the sun and earth are in quadrature (meaning they make a triangle, not a straight line) and at these times of the month, the tides, and hence the currents, are less dramatic. (We have been told by many locals that you want to get it right!)
Leslie is skippering and adjusting speed and course to hit our waypoints at the desired times. So, just what is the big deal with these so-called ‘rapids’? We chugged through Yaculta Rapids before the slack, noticing two individuals in a Drascomb rowing along closely behind us. We took advantage of a back eddy on the east side and then slid across to the other shore and bested the adverse current. Moments later it was slack at Gillard Passage, and 2 miles farther on we were spurted out of Dent Rapids running with the current. In all, it was pretty much a non-event – at least as compared to our racing pulses as we started our ‘Rapid Plan’.
Soon we made our first stop at a marina, the Blind Channel Resort, where we stayed for two nights and enjoyed gourmet restaurant food, friendly staff and boaters, a great walk in the woods. The resort is operated by 4 generations of the Richter family ranging from 90 year old patriarch to great-grandchildren Jonah, age 7, and Charlotte, age 4. This family continues a BC coast tradition of stewardship that harkens back to Native Peoples, in contrast with the resource exploitation that so dominates this region and so much of our world.
Our morning hike took us up and down through a second growth woods to an old-growth 800+ year old cedar tree that the Richter family has saved after long pleading and negotiating with the lumber company that holds the lumbering contract for this island, West Thurlow. Later that afternoon, Jess Cavanagh, who drives boats and guides nature and photography tours, took us all the way around East Thurlow Island. We had lots of pauses for many photos and a lunch stop on a tiny, beautiful island in a quiet cove while we watched two eagles perching in nearby trees.
After refueling , re-watering, and refreshing (showering), we headed on into the last two of the 5 great rapids. Upon entering Greene Point Rapids, with little current , we suddenly noticed the yellow flashing oars of two people rowing far away near the shore. Binoculars showed that it was our Drascomb followers catching up with us while we had whiled away our happy resort hours. Greene Point and the frighteningly-named Whirlpool Rapids both presented quiet aspects to us and we motored on, spending the night in Douglas Bay in Forward Harbor.