Whale Tales and Ghost Towns
It required most of the day to complete the repairs, but we were back in the water by 17:00. Shearwater had been good to us—service oriented people, a good restaurant, and quick repairs—but we started to feel closed in because we had been there almost four days. So we decided to push off to the northwest in Seaforth Channel. We were literally sailing (well, OK, motoring again) off into a beautiful sunset, our destination a secluded anchorage called Oliver Cove.
By 2117 we anchored in Oliver Cove, in a small channel off the main traffic area. We had it all to ourselves; no one else was around. Everything was still, except for the distant crashing of waves against a shoreline over half a mile away. The sun slowly faded, and dusk settled over the water, Andanté, and it's crew. This was a spiritual experience that words can't adequately describe. Peaceful. Tranquil. Natural. Around midnight I set the depth alarm, in case our anchor drifted. Immediately afterwards I tucked into my berth and fell into a deep sleep.
We had a long 60-mile day ahead, so we hauled anchor at 0700. So many rocks dotted the chart that we did not clear nearby Perceval Narrows until 8:45. (We were extra careful since our visit to Shearwater.)
At 0955 we spotted a pair of Orcas to starboard, and turned 180 degrees to follow them at a respectful distance. As they surface, we heard air exploding from their blow holes, and the resulting mist that shot ten feet into the air looked like steam, which highlighted in the bright sun. They glided gracefully and silently, occasionally showing white underneath, which contrasted dramatically against their black backs.
Afterwards, we turned back to our original path (west), and headed slowly back to our way point. Suddenly, the shallow depth alarm (set for 15 feet) exploded. This seems impossible—the chart told us that we were in several hundred feet of water, but the depth gauge continued to work its way up: 15 feet, 12 feet, then eight. I slowed to an absolute crawl as we tried to work our way out of an invisible maze underwater. The alarm sounded constantly and annoyingly, and so we silenced it. But the numbers continued to flash their warning on the digital display.
bolted below and returned with his fishing rod. I know he's a devoted
fisherman ... but now? But his plan evidenced quick thinking: he dropped
the lure over the side to take a sounding. We watched the reel spin
out 50, 70, 90 feet. We were deep. The depth sounder must have picked
up a false reading on a thermal layer close to the surface. Whew!
At 16:00 we heard whales surfacing, only this time the sound was much louder and deeper. We spotted a pair of humpback whales at 52º 51.49N, and 128º 28.62 west. The small dorsal fin that protruded from the surfaces belied the mass hidden below. We had two confirmations that we were looking at humpbacks: you can hear from their breathing that the lung capacity of these creatures is enormous—significantly larger than the Orcas. In addition, when they turn underwater for a deep dive, their large tails flip gracefully out of the water. The width of the tails appeared to be 15 feet across. Humpbacks migrate from the tropics in the winter to the Alaskan ice pack in the summer.
We turned to follow. Like the Orcas, the pair of humpbacks proved to be illusive. At one point they surfaced 50 yards in front of us, only to swim under Andanté and surface on the other side. We keep our distance. After watching them for perhaps half an hour, we turned back on course. Another mystical, magical experience.
21:30 - we anchored in a small bay in an old ghost town called Butedale. Our anchorage was challenging because the depth was 90 feet off the bow. A preferred 7:1 scope of rode (chain) would have required 560 feet. We only had 300.
We managed to get the anchor hooked, and then backed towards the shore where Guy, from the dinghy, looped several stern lines around three large pilings close to shore. We strung between anchor and pilings, but a nearby stream helped provide enough current out from shore to keep us perpendicular to large wakes generated by passing cruise ships out in the channel.
Guy started the morning by attempting to catch a fish, but came up with an octopus instead. After debating a) the difficulty of cleaning and b) the edibility of the creature, he (she) got returned to the sea.
Later in the morning we took the dinghy to shore for a tour of Butedale. There we met Cindy and Russell. Russell is the official (perhaps non-official) caretaker of Butedale. He struck us more like a hippie escaping from society, particularly since seemed to be falling down more than being preserved. Cindy was an Oregon resident who has come up for the summer to help in the slow-motion restoration. Butedale's owner, a Canadian living in California, is investing some money to renovate the property, but the reality seems to be two steps backward for every one forward.
After 20 miles we arrived in Bishop Bay, known as one of the best hot springs for cruisers on the way to Alaska. We arrived at 16:00, and were in the spring about an hour later. We sat in this natural bath letting the 110 degree water soak us as we watched the steam rise and escape through the top of the A-frame roof. We dined in the cockpit as the surrounding snow-capped mountains faded into black.
We woke to gray skies, and left Bishop Bay around 9:00. Our goal was Lowe Inlet, 44 miles distant. The entire day could be described as gray: gray skies, gray mountains, gray water, gray deck, and pouring rain all day long. At 15:00 we anchored bow-to a large waterfall. Its current kept us pointing consistently in the same direction as we wait out an expected storm—45 knot winds anticipated just 20 miles away.
Sent from Kumealon Inlet: 53º 52.06 north, 129º 58.50.
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