Friday, October 1, 2010

A Salute to Our Captain

The SnowHawke is returned to her berth in Olympia and our 2010 season has ended. We safely traveled over 3000 adventure- filled nautical miles between May and September and it is timely to salute our Captain for a journey well skippered.

Early in the season, our friend, Heidi, asked Doug how many engines he had on the boat. For a moment he looked a bit perplexed and said, "Do you mean engines or motors?" After a brief clarification of the difference between an engine and a motor, Heidi answered, "Both!" And we counted. At first count we tallied up 19 systems that had an engine or a motor. To maintain and troubleshot each of those systems requires a variety of skills all of which Captain Doug possesses. He continually monitors all systems. What is this 5 degree increase in temperature on the starboard engine really telling me? Why would the generator pressure suddenly drop? Does the dinghy engine sound a bit rough to you? And so he goes day by day. And when he encounters a problem that he can not figure out, he knows who to call. If it is an engine problem, he has Erath in his speed dial. If it is the micro-commander that would be Ted. The Onan technical support people know his name and love to have him call because he understands what they are telling him. Captain Doug maintains systems and knows where to get expert help when he needs it.

When we decided to boat, Doug enrolled in a Captain's course and obtained his Coast Guard Captain's certification. Many of the skills he was taught seemed a bit archaic to me. Do you really need to be able to plot set and drift when you have that brand new Garmin system on board? Do you really need those paper charts when you have electronic charts? I thought not until we headed out of Blunden Harbour to pick up Shari and Ryan for a week on the boat with us. The Garmin didn't light up. Checked the connections. Moved it to the downstairs port. Called Garmin. Oh, no, the little Garmin brain had fried itself. The only good news was that the warranty wasn't up for two days. But that did not get us 17 nautical miles across the Queen Charlotte Strait to Port McNeill in the fog. All of the sudden the Captain's ability to plot a course of compass headings was mighty important.

Our Garmin dealer over-nighted us a new system which Shari and Ryan brought up. A kind boater who was flying out mailed our system to Garmin and there was hardly a blip on the radar screen. Once again our Captain came through.

The more we boat, the more thankful I am that our Captain can keep me and our guests safe and fishing. Hats off to Doug!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How Engineers Have Fun

Do not Let it be said that engineers do not know how to have fun.

Unfortunately, I did not get a photo of Doug and Gerry sitting on the couch reading operation manuals. But I do have other telling photos that are living proof that the stories about dull engineers are false or perhaps Gerry and Doug are exceptions....

Our time with Gerry and Carly began at Heriot Bay Marina which is a funky marina owned and managed by six old hippies. There is a band in the bar, great food in the dining room and gentle souls around.

Our first stop was Bute Inlet where we were treated to better bears than last year. Our first sighting was a very dark mature bear who came out of the brush. While we were admiring her she was joined by twin cubs whose antics amused us greatly. We were a little concerned when a large brown grizzly emerged. Male grizzlies will kill cubs if given the opportunity. Fortunately, this turned out to be Aunt Grizzly and all was well.

We feared that we had jinxed our catching with our failure to provide memorial photographs of our fish. Such was the case with salmon but not with bottom fish. Gerry is featured with our ling catch and a nice yellow eye. Carly is the prawn princess.

Shortly, there will be a blog on grizzlies including a video but I could not resist a few photos. The cubs are just too cute to not show you now.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Debra's Pride

It came as a surprise what thrilled Doug's sister, Debra, the most. Pay no heed to the trophy salmon, the "big" halibut or a prawn pull of 13 pounds. Instead savor the excitement of being able to land the smallest fish ever to be hooked by a SnowHawke guest. Excellent job, Debra! Ralph was proud of his two salmon but his excitement did not rival that of his wife.

Such fun we had with the Wilhelmi branch of the family. The trip from Olympia to Port McNeill is 14 hours (two videos and a nap). We arrived late after provisioning in Campbell River. At morning's first light we headed out for the Nakwakto Rapids where we spent several days before trying salmon fishing at Jeannette Island and Blackfish Sound. We fished at Well's Passage but caught nothing. For a week we laughed, celebrated each fishing success, played bridge, caught more prawns than we could eat and enjoyed some spectacular sunsets at beautiful anchorages.

We never tire of the beauty and variety of the Canadian waters, the company of friends and family and excitement of living off the sea with style and laughter.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

We Are So Blessed

We are so blessed to have such wonderful young adults in our lives. Doug's daughter, Shari, and her delightful husband, Ryan, are among the best. Having them on the boat was pure joy. Shari is so much like her father and Ryan really gets my sense of humor. What great kids!

Ir was such fun to watch Doug as the time drew near for their arrival. First, he checked the clock every few minutes and then he pulled on his coat and stepped out into the rainy night to wait for them at the head of the dock. Before he was forced to seek warmth in the half dark laundromat, they arrived and the fun began.

The first stop was a little salmon fishing off of Jeanette where Ryan caught a nice 19 lb salmon before the wind started kicking up. We headed for the Nakwakto Rapids where we were greeted by a huge pod of dolphins who decided to play with us. They talked loudly as they jumped and guided us toward SnowHawke Cove North. Doug got a fantastic photo of their antics and we laughed at Shari and Ryan's delight in watching them ride the bow.

After two days of prawning (great success) we headed out for more fishing. Before we could start to fish we were treated to watching big whales hunting. What a treat! Shari's salmon nearly matched Ryan's for size. Shari also managed to catch a small halibut before the wind came up.

Our time on the boat ended far too quickly.

PS Can you look at Shari''s natural blond beautiful hair and guess what Doug was nicknamed in his logging days?

That's right GOLDLOCKS!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

There's Fishing and There's Catching

When it is just the two of us on the boat, our fishing resembles a Chinese fire drill. Jan runs the helm and finds the fish, Doug tends the down riggers. We wait for those great words - FISH ON! Doug sets the hook and begins to reel. Jan's work begins. She reduces the engines to 600 rmp, disengages the trolling motors, puts the main engines in neutral and races down from the bridge. If it is her turn to bring in the fish Doug hands her the catching pole and tends to the chores. If it is Doug's turn to bring in the fish, she reels in the second pole, brings both down rigger balls up and in the boat and prepares to net the fish. Bonking is always Doug's job. It's always more fun when we have guests and can spread the jobs around.

We were delighted to have Jim and Denise a part of our fishing adventures. In 2008 they met us on the West Coast of Vancouver Island which is known to be one of the finest salmon fisheries in the world. Unfortunately, that year was the worst catching in recent history. Nary a salmon was caught during their time with us.

But their trip this year was a different story.

They were the fisherpersons of the week catching 7 salmon and the limit of 12 ling cod. Just too much fun.

Soon after they departed we found good halibut fishing wsith Doug being the King of Halibut - 20 lbs and 40 lbs. Jan landed a 30 pounder.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fjiords, Baby Seals and Totems

Fjiordland is a marine park north of Bella Bella framed by high granite cliffs sculpted by glaciers and touched by history. Waterfalls are everywhere. We cruised up Kynoch Inlet and transited a small tidal rapid and spent the night as the sole human inhabitants. The next morning we traveled north through Mussel Inlet where Captain Vancouver had dispatched his men up Mussel Inlet on the endless search for a way through from the West Coast to the East Coast. The crew gathered mussels for dinner not knowing they were contaminated with paralytic shellfish poisoning (red tide). Many men were ill and one died. As a result the cove at the end of Mussel Inlet is named Poison Cove.

Early the next morning at Windy Bay anchorage Doug captured an amazing picture. We were anchored close shore. The seals that had played the night before hauled out on the rocks. First the big male, next the female who quickly rolled on her side. Their baby quickly followed and began his breakfast. Simply amazing.

Looking out toward the Pacific Ocean from the Seaforth Channel three watchers once stood. Their origins remain a mystery. Perhaps they stood watch for a Haida war party coming from the north. One still stands, one is no more and one watcher sleeps.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Allisons Fish and the Eagles Eat

Nicky is an avid fisherman who has caught such exotics as barracuda off of their boat in Guatemala. But even two guided days on the Kenai Peninsula had left her without a salmon. Finally the curse has been broken! Nicky caught her two Chinook salmon. And John was quick to follow suit with his limit of two. Both bigger fish weighed in at 24 1/2 lbs but there is an ongoing discussion about who holds the size record. What is your vote? The Allisons did not stop there - they caught some really nice yellow eye, several big rock fish and a small halibut! Great fishermen!.

When the eagles hear the dink heading for the big boat they know treats are coming. They perch in hierarchical order in the trees and watch our every move. We lay out the fish scraps the show begins.

Eagles can only carry about 4 lbs and carrying off a big salmon head is a chore. They swoop in, sometimes drop their prize and threaten one another with loud squawks. Occasionally an aerial dogfight will take place and feathers have flown. But since eagles have 7000 feathers they can lose a few without harm.

Interesting eagle facts: Eagles weigh between 10 and 14 lbs with females being slightly larger than males.

Their wing span is 72 to 90 inches and they can fly as fast as 35 mph in level flight and they can soar as high as 10,000 feet.

Juvenile eagles are speckled and each year they become more distinct as they develop the adult coloring.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Magical Day

Sometimes in life there are times with touches of magic and we have been so blessed. After a fairly smooth crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound we entered Fitzhugh Channel and were greeted by three or four whales which we believe to be humpbacks. Shortly after they left us we were surrounded by a pod of at least 1000 white sided dolphins. They played in the wake and leaped out of the water.

Jan always gets excited when they big fish symbol shows on the fish finder even when Doug is the catcher. A nice yellow eye which looks like a snapper but is actually a big rockfish. This one weighed in at about 8 lbs.

But the real excitement came when the Orca whales arrived. A transient pod of three - a mama, a daddy and a baby. That would indicate that they are transient whales. We just put the boat in neutral and they passed close by.

The sunset was spectacular and the magic went into the next day when Jan caught a 28 lb salmon.

Friday, June 11, 2010

From Cul de Sacs to Coves

Turning our city girl, Heidi into a mariner was a delight. Getting from Phoenix, AZ to Port McNeill, BC is no small feat taking more than 13 hours. Jan drove to the airport while Doug fine tuned issues evolving from our vigorous shake-down cruise north. Driving from the airport Heidi got a glimpse of what was to come as we watched two huge black bear nonchalantly munching on sedge grass at the road's edge. Reality set in with a thump and Heidi realized that she was not in Phoenix any more.

As we entered our first anchorage, Lady Boot Cove, Heidi asked what a cove was - a reasonable question for a desert girl. Jan took out the chart and pointed out Lady Boot. "Cool", Heidi responded, "tonight we are going to park the boat in a cul de sac." "Never heard it put quite that way", Doug commented. A journey had begun.

We headed to Napier Harbour in a blinding rain that Heidi brought with her. After lending Heidi her trusty Costco raingear, Jan donned her newly-purchased, overboard-safe neon orange pants and coat. Heidi looked up somewhat laughinly said, "You look just like a crossing guard." Jan is firm that her cruel remarks are the result of fashion envy. The day was squandered digging cockles and gathering crab.

Determined to make Heidi a full fledged mariner, we headed for the Nakwakto Rapids which are reported to be the fasted flowing navigable tidal rapids in the world. Seldom visited by any save the intrepid, it is a wild and wonderful place. Last time we visited we surveyed a niche deep behind small islets and dubbed it SnowHawke Cove North. No more cul de sacs for Heidi she was gaining mariner status. She caught fish on her first ever fishing trip, pulled crab pots and helped Doug clean crab. She went out on prawn pot pulls and never batted an eyelash when the dingy engine faltered and Doug had to tie the boat to the prawn buoy and make emergency repairs.

The continued and it seemed that the Ark might float past Charlotte Bay at any moment. Rough weather forecasts headed us back to civilization (or a facsimile thereof). We headed toward Mamalilaculla the site of the last great potlatch. A potlatch is a northcoast cultural tradition where to demonstrate wealth a great feast is held and the chief gives away possessions. In the 1880's the tradition was banned because it was believed that the Indians would not "progress" if they remained mired in their old ways. Potlatches were then held in secret often in the winter when intrepid weather kept the Indian agents home. On Christmas of 1920 a great potlatch was raided and the participants jailed. Masks and dancing regalia were seized and shipped to East. It was a very sad day for many and it took until 1970 to have the items returned to the band in Alert Bay where they are housed in a museum. We put the boat on a lunch anchor and went ashore. Fresh bear scat that looked to be grizzly brought out our bear whistles and slowed our pace. The island is badly overgrown. We saw the school, the hospital and the mission houses but were unable to plow through the wild roses to the remains of the longhouse.

An early morning trip to the airport and opening sunny skies as Heidi flew South. Jan and Doug head out for new and unexplored territory around Bella Bella.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Why We Do What We Do....

For some it is puzzling and perplexing that Doug and I live as we do. It is not possible to explain why we would buy a boat, sell our condo and become drifters who land periodically in Deb and Ralph’s basement. But each day at sea is an adventure filled with surprises.
Have you ever seen an oyster that weighs 5 lbs and is 12 inches long? Jan found one on the beach.
Did you know that a stern tie could sing? We thought that its maker, brother Dale, had endowed it with special talents which did not include pitch nor tone. We found that when a tight rope is tied to a large rock, the rock can vibrate creating a high pitch tone.
Have you ever seen a Harlequin Duck in full mating season dress? The males are very showy. These small and uncommon ducks flirted and courted around us for several days.
And, last but never least, there is the fine dining. Can you eat your own weight up in crabmeat? That is surely Doug’s goal.
Tomorrow will bring new surprises for certain.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Heading North into Canada

Since we plan to edge further north this year our start needed to be earlier. Fortunately, we got a lot of difficulty out of the way during our preparation – if it could be difficult it was! At some point we just looked at one another and laughed. In the end we left on time and Doug readily survived the redecorating of the boat. The project turned out very well and we are happy that we did it and also happy that it is done.

Our friends, Gene and Sandy, joined us for the first leg of the journey. We spent our last day together on San Juan Island exploring Roche Harbor and English Camp. Tensions were high between the British and Americans over who had most valid claim to the San Juan Islands. The crisis came to a head with the “Pig War” which brought the two countries to the brink of war. Mediation settled the dispute and Sand Juan Island is, of course, American but the Union Jack still flies over English Camp.

After dropping Gene and Sandy we headed north toward Evan’s Bay which is one of our favored haunts. We were weathered in Comox for an extra day with the Straits of Georgia kicking up mightily. A nice bridge game with the locals made the stop memorable.