Log #59c Port McNeill to Kitimat

June 18, 2015 in Log Series 50-59, Logs by Series, Series 59, The Logs

Juneau, Alaska
June 18, 2015
Hi Folks,
We are up here in Juneau, as far north as we presently plan to go. After this we will head further west and then down to Sitka where we hope to be for July 1st, Canada Day (Dominion Day) and July 4th Independence Day festivities. From there we will go down to Haida Gwaii, and back down the west coast of Vancouver Island.
This log gets us through some beautiful coastal areas and a few abandoned sites, and an enjoyable hot springs.
With the identity theft I had whereby you were sent a bogus message for help, as we were supposedly stranded in the Ukraine, my entire address book was wiped clean. Thus I only have the E-mail addresses for my log lists I have on a word document, which does not have any other information such as names, boats, land addresses, websites, phone numbers or significant others. Especially those of you with whom I am in more frequent contact, would you forward to me such data as you feel comfortable in sending.
All is well with us and Veleda. We are enjoying the spectacular scenery of Alaska, including mountains, water falls, glaciers and ice bergs. My next log will get us from Kitimat to Prince Rupert and up to Ketchikan in Alaska, and probably not be sent until we are in Sitka.
All the best,
Aubrey

 

Log #59c Port McNeill to Kitimat
Wrangell, Alaska
June 9, 2015

After leaving Port McNeill, June 18, we anchored overnight a bit up the coast at Beaver Harbour which is on the end of the south peninsula of Port Hardy. Abundance joined us there after she too had a rough passage.
We left at 0500 next morning (sunrise was at 0538) to go around Cape Caution, seeing it for the first time as last year it was foggy both going and returning. We were making good time and so went beyond Rivers Inlet to anchor in Fury Cove on Penrose Island. It is an idyllic anchorage with a white shell beach on a spit on Fury Island. I enjoyed dinghying around the small group of islands on the west side of Penrose Island. We stayed there two nights before heading further north up Fitz Hugh Sound.
We were now further north than we were last year. We surveyed the inlet at Koeye River where a First Nations lodge was located, but we did not anchor to dinghy up the shallow river which goes into some interesting bear country.  Further up Fitz Hugh Sound we stopped at Rock Inlet for a few hours. I dinghied the half mile over to Namu, an abandoned cannery which according to our 2013 Waggoners Cruising Guide was still fighting for its life trying to attract tourists. Unfortunately it was dead! Totally abandoned!
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                                                                                        Namu Docks

I wandered around the ruins of the cannery, docks, store, and through the empty factory.
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The Company Store                                                                    Warehouse
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             Generator Room                                                                     Storage Area
(The thought went through my mind of who will clean this up, and what might be the environmental impact of those filled oil drums?)
The deserted houses and accommodations were overgrown with weeds and trees making access difficult; but I wandered through some.
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Houses with overgrown foliage                                            Fireplace room in one house
It is a sad testimony to a bygone era; many such are in northern B.C. waters, numbering up to as many as 200!
This experience created a greater interest in going to Ocean Falls which was also indicated as a dying community trying to hang on to its existence. Thirty-eight miles from Namu up the Fisher Channel we entered Cousins Inlet, a dramatic mountain sided channel with Ocean Falls cradled beneath the majestic mountains, the white rushing falls and the large multi-storied hotel (now abandoned) nestled in the small community.

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Ocean Falls

Distance from Port McNeill to Ocean Falls – 137 NM
A strong wind was blowing up the channel, but was supposed to ease off as we rounded the final cape a mile or so before Ocean Falls. No such luck! It still howled down the channel to Ocean Falls, complicating our entry into the small marina. I thought the inner side would be better, but as I tried to round up to starboard the wind would not let my bow swing up, and I was forced to back off and do a second attempt which was successful. Of course there was nobody there at “The Shack” which was a self-pay setup. It was at least open with some local information, a computer, a book exchange, and a couple of tables.  There were a few other transient boats as well as us.
 59c-11 The Shack unstaffed office
There was some life in the community, three men outside the Dark Waters Inn & Adventures Lodge, including the fabled “Nearly Normal Norman Brown”, a long-time resident who showed us through his “museum” in the derelict large marine ways shed.
There were a few other people around and a few pick-up trucks.  The power company and fish hatchery were still in operation, but most employees live in Martin Valley, a viable suburb a couple of miles before the bend of Cousins Inlet.
We walked over to the falls and power plant – nobody around! Judy went back to Veleda while I wandered through the deserted large six story apartment hotel.
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Judy outside abandoned apartment/hotel
The floors and rooms were dust covered with hanging electrical cables, peeling wallpapered walls, dirty damp carpeting, broken windows, open plumbing fixtures, door-less openings; a sad testimony to a once thriving tourist and accommodations hotel.
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Empty Rooms
Some of the streets had demolished houses, others had houses overgrown with foliage and yet others were reasonably intact, but deserted.
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Streets of destroyed or abandoned houses
I wandered through several houses, abandoned, without furniture, steps rotting, windows and doors open to the outside; some could be resurrected with sufficient interest and dedication.
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Interiors of abandoned houses
At one time the town had a population of 5,000, but when Crown Zellerbach closed the paper mill in 1973, the province tried to run it until 1980, and gave up. There was a demonstration when the townspeople opposed the final bull-dozing to level the town in 1986, although several of the houses and buildings had been destroyed. Since then only the hydro plant and fish hatchery and Dark Waters Inn and Adventure Lodge have been operational, the latter marginally open with accommodations for a few adventure tourists and logging personnel.

 59c-19 Dark Waters Inn & Adventure Lodge
One of the local characters we met was “Almost Normal Norman”, a diehard citizen of the town who was mentioned in our cruising guide, and who has a collection of Ocean Falls memorabilia housed in the attic section of the abandoned Marine Ways shed. It is a nostalgic clutter of pamphlets , pictures, household items, sports team trophies, pennants, announcements,  and other brick-a-brack from the once thriving community.

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   The Museum                            Aubrey and Almost Normal Norman
(Note – The Dominion Day Queen Contest predates the unfortunately current legislated term “Canada Day”, which is the July 1st celebration of Canada’s birthday. I liked and grew up with Dominion Day” as the BNA Act of 1867 established “The Dominion of Canada”.)
A few Americans store their boats in the large marine ways shed. This town unfortunately may go the way of Namu. It is in a beautiful location; – BUT!
Bella Bella was our next destination. Actually, we went to Shearwater around the point from the original Old Belle Bella. Shearwater is a good resupply base that was a seaplane base during WW II. The hanger is still used by the marina for repair and storage, and the post office, grocery store, and True Value hardware store and chandlery around its fringe.as it has The functioning Shearwater Resort and Marina and harbour side pub (with WiFi) make this an enjoyable destination and resupply stop in these northern waters.

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Hangar Mural and Post office
The original First Nations town of Old Bella Bella has only some abandoned houses and buildings beside a coast guard station (for the Search and Rescue vessel Cape Farewell, and a few new resort residences beside the abandoned houses.
59c-23    Old Bella Bella   

59c-24New Bella Bella  
The natives now are across the channel at the New Bella Bella, a First Nations community with a government dock and ferry service, but no marina. We motored past it, but did not go ashore.
I was able to give away our old Cole wood burning stove to the harbour master in Shearwater who said he could make use of it. I did not want to throw the stove out, but it took up space in a cockpit locker. I’m glad to have found a good home for it.
Our new diesel stove is working well.  A few times we have had it going while we were under way. We have left the main hatch open and it would warm up the cockpit with our full enclosure zipped up. We purchased a convection fan that fits on top of the stove. It rotates by the heat and spreads the warmth of the stove around the main cabin quite nicely.
There are a myriad of channels, passages, narrows, inlets, reaches, lagoons, arms and fjords from Cape Caution to Prince Rupert. To give a detailed account of every passage and anchorage would be overload. This spectacular country has dramatic scenery at every bend, cove, bay, or roadstead. Many of these waterways are the traditional Inside Passage frequented by cruise ships, but we are able to explore many more inlets and offshoots not available to larger ships. I will follow a chronological sequence of our travels, but will not comment on every transit or anchorage, so there will be gaps, but the attached map indicates our route up to Kitimat.
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Shearwater to Kitimat Distance – 154 NM
From the Bella Bella area we wended our way up Mathieson  Channel heading into what the B.C. Parks spin doctors call (and justifiably so) Fiordland with the famed Kynoch Inlet. As we were low on fuel we diverted across the six mile Jackson Pass     and up to Klemtu, a First Nations village. It seemed prosperous with houses in good repair, a large fish dock and fuelling station, and a luxurious lodge for tourists and ceremonies. The unfortunate aspect of the area was that there were three fish farms in that short six mile stretch of Jacksons Passage.

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 One of 3 Fish Farms
On a positive note, we were able to sail for the first time this year across Finlayson Channel, using the genoa only and the motor shut off. It lasted for an hour each way for the three mile crossing. Sailing at last!
(There is a local joke about sailing in the northwest coast – “There are two types of power boats; those with sails and those without.”)
Back over and up Mathieson Channel, we went all the way up snow-capped mountain fringed Kynoch Inlet into Culpepper Lagoon at the end. The Inlet was about ¾ mile wide and 12 miles long, extending up into another mountain range.
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A larger luxury yacht was at the end of the inlet, but did not want to try the narrow Culpepper Narrows to get into the lagoon.

59c-28  Luxury yacht stayed outside
We transited it against a 2 ½ knot current, and had plenty of depth; no problem.
59c-29  Through Culpepper Narrows
The lagoon is a long narrow body of water enclosed by mountains on each side and a river mouth at the end where we anchored (52 43.997 N, 127 49.838 W). Idyllic!
We anchored to the south of the river mouth which was complicated by wide sand bars and a large grassy meadow, most of which flooded at high tide. Snow-capped mountains provided a backdrop up the valley. There was some soft white noise from a small waterfall from another nearby stream.
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Veleda at anchor in Culpepper Lagoon
A large cedar tree appeared grounded near the sand bars, about 100 metres from our anchorage. I enjoyed dinghying up the lagoon to check out the currents at the narrows and see the surrounding snow-capped mountains and a couple of waterfalls.
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A Waterfall in the Lagoon                                Mountains at the end of the Lagoon

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Soft evening colours on the mountains
Upon my return, the tide had gone up and I was able to explore about two kilometres up the quiet river.

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Scenes up the river

As I got into some shallows, I did not want to risk damaging the propeller, and so I shut off the motor, raised it out of the water and quietly drifted back down to the entrance. This drifting tranquility provided me with another high experience of the beauty of this world.
However, the high tide also released the grounded cedar tree which then drifted over towards Veleda. I tried to push the tree away, but was unable to effect any movement. We hoped it would not drift into Veleda and dislodge our anchor.
59c-36 Tree drifting close to Veleda
Fortunately it didn’t, and come the morning we were not able to see it in any part of the lagoon as we weighed anchor
 59c-37  Judy weighing anchor
and motored out into Mathieson Channel on our way up to Kitimat, three days travel and 120 NM distance.
One of the days we stopped for 90 minutes on a buoy at Weewanie Hot Springs, 18 miles south of Kitimat. We dinghied ashore and followed the path to the hot springs shack built and maintained by a local dive club. No one else was around and so we enjoyed a good soak “au natural”. The bath was divided into two concrete sections. The lower section was to wash ourselves and drain it before soaking in the cleaner upper section. The hot water came in the upper section, and was quite hot, too hot to sit beneath it, but it made the large tub quite warm as it spilled over into the drained lower section.
 59c-38Judy enjoying the hot spring
Refreshed after a bath and soak  59c-39

Incidentally, the water was not sulfurous, no smell from it whatever.
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Thanks Kitimat Aquanauts Scuba Club!
Four hours later we arrived at MK Bay Marina in Kitimat (actually a $30.00 taxi ride from town).