Never dull: Spyhops, bliss, and fog you can cut with a knife.

When life gets pretty perfect: Riding on the bow in Princess Royal Channel, British Columbia.

WE’RE ROCKING AND ROLLING — and sometimes just riding along smoothly — on our Nordic Tug, Osprey, as we slide southward, finding new adventures on the homebound reach. Kayaking! Killer whales! Pea-soup fog! Let’s wade right in, like a rambunctious toddler at a kiddie pool in July.

Sunday, July 17

Prince Rupert to Klewnuggit Inlet, another new favorite spot

Three good things:

(1) Another easy day of placid seas and pleasant sun breaks as we plowed southward into the straight and narrow, mountain-lined, 45-mile Grenville Channel, commonly known to Inside Passage boaters as “The Ditch.” Learning via the radio of our plans to put into Baker Inlet, a friend on the Friday Harbor-based sailboat Club Paradise reminded us that currents can be tricky in the tree-lined tunnel that is the inlet’s entrance, especially during spring tides (which we are having now, with a 20-foot difference between high and low tides, causing currents that can “boil” in the narrows, a cruising guide says). We decide to push on to try a new anchorage: Klewnuggit Inlet, a B.C. provincial park, which is highly recommended by another user of Navionics, our navigation software.

(2) It’s an orca day! Just as we pass the entry to Baker Inlet, Barbara M., at the helm, calls out “killer whales!” A big dorsal appeared right in front of the inlet’s entry marker. We get a thrill when a pod surfaces within 100 yards of our boat. We idle for 45 minutes as we shoot photos and delight in the sight of at least half a dozen whales, including a baby, plus a big male with a dorsal taller than any we’ve seen before – maybe 8 feet. At one point, one whale repeatedly splashes the water with its tail. A small one spyhops three times in near succession to take a better look at us. It’s Mother Nature’s generous payoff (or rebuke?) for my wondering where all the wildlife went.

Who goes there? A curious orca spyhops as we pause to watch in Grenville Channel.
A pair of orcas surfaces with a spray of salty breath.

(3) After a dinner of flame-grilled Impossible burgers, plus an after-dinner movie, I looked out at the mirror-calm inlet and couldn’t resist a kayak exploration. Barbara and Bill generously indulged my 9:15 p.m. whim and helped me haul a kayak off Osprey’s rooftop. I spent a lovely half hour paddling along the shore, where barnacle-crusted rocks the size of my writing hut back home edged tannin-darkened water. The water was so still and reflective that I couldn’t tell where sea ended and rock began until my paddle touched a barnacle. A big stream gurgled in at the head of the bay. Above me, spruce and cedar grew alongside a soaring gray cliff of columnar basalt that gave the hillside the look of a forest fortress. A snowy mountaintop peeked through a cleft that the cruising guide warned could channel williwaws, microbursts of wind that can blow a boat out of an anchorage. But not this beautiful evening. For me, a spontaneous paddle was a wonderful bedtime treat.

Kayaking Klewnuggit Inlet. Barbara Marrett photo.

Monday, July 18

Klewnuggit Inlet to Butedale, B.C.

Three good things:

(1) Awakened to peaceful, pelting rain in the inlet. The dimples on the surface drew my eye to the thousands of transparent, fist-sized sea jellies, pulsating and dancing in a slow-motion waltz beneath the surface. Splendid.

(2) Piloted the boat through foggy, narrow Grenville Channel, where spring tides fueled 5+-knot currents that spit us like a grapeseed through the narrows. For the first time, we employed Osprey’s automatic foghorn, which sounds every two minutes, per prescribed nautical safety procedures. The foghorn, broadcast through the boat’s mast-mounted loud hailer, sounded a bit like a bleating calf. We supplemented it with blasts from the double-chrome-trumpet ship’s horn. When that baby toots, other boats know someone’s coming.

(3) We found dock space at Butedale, the abandoned and crumbling cannery site on Princess Royal Island, where we got friendly help docking from John, part of the crew on a boat whose home port was Center Island, Washington. Small world, eh? (As they say in Canada.)

Tuesday, July 19

Southbound from Butedale on Princess Royal Channel, B.C.

Three good things:

Osprey at sunset on Bottleneck Inlet.

(1) Bright, hot sun warms my bones as I recline on Osprey’s foredeck with my feet propped by the anchor windlass. Plying glassy waters amid near-zero wind, I gaze up at puffball gray and white clouds framing generous swatches of pale blue “Dutchman’s pants,” a scene of natural beauty to rival any work by van Gogh. It’s a moment when I’m slapped up the side of the head – gently, but convincingly – with the reminder of how fortunate we are to be given a life on this beautiful planet. Camel-hump hills of unsullied forest are embroidered with every green you can imagine. Every half-mile, we pass another waterfall, because one mustn’t be bored. I’m finding bliss, even on this homeward journey as we retrace passages that were steel gray with rainclouds when we passed a month ago.

(2) Snagged a plum anchorage in pretty Bottleneck Inlet, off Finlayson Channel. Grilled salmon burgers for dinner. I got to barbecue, which I always enjoy.

(3) A kayak paddle on mirrorlike waters before bed. Again.                                                                                                

Wednesday, July 20

Bottleneck Inlet to Shearwater, B.C.

The view, or lack thereof, from Osprey’s helm, southbound on Finlayson Channel.

(1) Safely navigated pea-soup fog in Finlayson Channel for 20 miles from Bottleneck Inlet to Oscar Passage. It’s fog season in these parts. Adventures in boating, keeping a careful watch for floating logs and speeding sportfisher boats. Radar and the chartplotter helped, a lot.

(2) Rejoiced over the sparkling waters glistening in the summer sun when it finally emerged near noon — just in time to show us a mother humpback and her calf diving together.

Hooray! Osprey emerges into the sunshine on Mathieson Channel after a foggy morning.

(3) I got to pilot the boat through a blue-sky, no-fog transit of narrow and scenic Reid Passage, on the way to a night at the dock at Shearwater.

Coming up, we’re off the grid for a few days again. We’ve tweaked our itinerary with the aim of meeting up in a week or so with former Osprey-ite Carol Hasse, who will be in Desolation Sound aboard another friend’s boat. Looking forward to that reunion!

Meanwhile, our next “civilization” on the agenda is Port McNeil, B.C., for reprovisioning five days from now. Hope to see you. Might depend on the fog.

One thought on “Never dull: Spyhops, bliss, and fog you can cut with a knife.

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