Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Near Perfect Passage

Indigo and crew made the passage from Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island to the Columbia River and Astoria, Oregon on Sunday and Monday. This is a great coastal shortcut, a route followed by all the early explorers like Vancouver, whose map of this area is shown above. We were blessed with following winds, relatively calm seas, minimal traffic, and - best of all - a full moon and clear skies, so that we had virtually no real darkness to contend with.
Even so, the reality of being twenty miles out at sea alone, in swells up to eight or nine feet, continues to intimidate the crew. I was nervous and sullen when I began my watch at 10 pm, but then the sea calmed down, the wind shifted so that it was directly on the stern, and we seemed to be surfing down the swell. Dolphins began to surf alongside the boat, and for several hours, they were right alongside playing in our wake. I could just make out the form of their bodies underwater next to the boat before they burst up and out of the water. How could I be afraid, when these sentient beings were providing this playful and exuberant show?

The Captain's long early hours watch ended in this fine sunrise as we neared the entrance to the Columbia River. May all your passages be as near perfect!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Gold Band

The marine landscape in the Pacific Northwest is overwhelmingly colored in blues and greens, or maybe grays and greens if there is cloud or fog. A hint of red or yellow shouts out for attention. That explains why I have become obsessed by the band of golden seaweed that often appears on rocks just at the waterline. On a gray day, it may be just a dull gold, but when the sun shines the translucent plants glow as the light hits them. It’s become a habit now to search out the best scenes with the brightest gold band, and to capture them in paint or with the camera.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Summer Storm

Just when we believed summer had really arrived, our weather changed, and we had two days of high winds, rain, and spectacular skies. This vista - from the anchorage at Effingham Bay in the Broken Group islands - provides for great storm watching.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Broken Group

We are in Barkely Sound, among the islands known as the Broken Group. This is a kayakers' paradise, and we have had fine, sunny weather for the past few days. Yesterday, we were able to accomplish the kayak trip to the Sea Lion colony at the very western edge of these islands. Because this is an exposed location, pounded by the swells from the Pacific, a kayaker needs a flat sea and good weather to make this trip. We had the calmest of conditions, and were able to get within a few hundred yards of this colony, overwhelmed by the barking and splashing as these huge creatures lunge around the rocks. We were reluctant to paddle closer than we did - after all, these Stellar Sea Lions can weigh up to 1000 kg!

Friday, August 10, 2007


Travel along this coast is marked by a series of lighthouses, standing on the capes, islands or headlands that are important points of navigation. There are more than a twenty manned light house stations in British Columbia (there are no longer any in all of the United States). There is some uniformity in the stations - the buildings are always painted white, and have bright red roofs. But the arrangement of buildings and the settings are dramatically different. Each light station is unique in its own dramatic, wild, and exposed position.
The names of the lighthouses become embedded in our brains, because the conditions at each lighthouse are reported on every weather broadcast on the VHF radio. So when our passages take us past a light for the first time, we feel a sense of satisfaction, knowing that in the future we will be able to picture just what it is like when the wind is blowing a gale at Pine Island or when the seas are rippled with a low westerly swell at Scarlett Point.
To celebrate the parade of lighthouses, I've been working on this small book, making a sketch or painting for each station we pass. Fourteen entries since mid-June.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Clayoquot Sound

We have come as far as Clayoquot Sound, and, although we are close to Tofino and the hustle and bustle of tourism, we haven't had any access to internet, and our radio email has been sporadic. So we will have to use words alone to tell you about how fine it is to have a week of sunshine. We have sampled four different anchorages in Clayoquot Sound, each different.
My favorite moments: first, paddling the kayaks from our salt water anchorage up into the mouth of a fresh water river. After about a mile, the water became crystal clear, the shallow bottom was perfectly uniform river rocks, and the air hit us both like a wave of ambrosia. Hauntingly familiar yet exotic, it was fresh air - or should I say salt-free air. We thought of alpine valleys, and, looking around, realized we were in one, with mountains rising straight up on all sides.
Second, today we were kayaking back to the sailboat, when we heard an odd, prolonged growl from some sort of critter. Neither one of us could identify it - not wolf, not seal, not bear or eagle. Then we realized - it was the growl of a truck on a dirt road. Chagrined, we checked the chart - yes, there is a road alongside this bay. Good to know that one can become naive again at such an advanced age.