Log #61d To Haida Gwaii

July 30, 2016 in Log Series 60-69, Logs by Series, Series 61, The Logs

Log #61d To Haida Gwaii

Powell River, B.C.

July 30, 2016


Hi Folks,

We are back on the mainland here at Powell River and have reasonably good internet that I hope allows me to send this Log #61d. We enjoyed Haida Gwaii, and the next log or two will have more pictures of this historic island, sacred to the Haida Nation. This log gets us across Hecate Strait to Haida Gwaii and Queen Charlotte City from which we explored Graham Island, the northernmost island of Haida Gwaii formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. This has been known as the “Easter Island of the Northwest Pacific” because of the sad remains of several Haida villages, and the new and old of their many totem poles. The story of their villages is a sad one as a population of thousands of natives in many villages was reduced by smallpox and other diseases in the mid to late 1800s by over 95 percent! Many of these villages were abandoned or consolidated into a few settlements as at Skidigate, and are commemorated in the Haida Heritage Centre by that community.


In my next log, I will go into detail about the remains we explored in this fabulous archipelago on Gwaii Haanas on the southern part of Moresby Island. This log talks about our passage across and our trip from Queen Charlotte City up to Old Masset on Graham Island.

Haida Gwaii 4Chartlet of Haida Gwaii

All the best,



PS – Did any of you not get my Log #61c? Let me know.


Log #61d To Haida Gwaii
Von Donop Inlet, Cortes Island
July 28, 2016

As the weather was quiet we decided to leave Keswar Inlet (53 38.412N, 130 20.518W) on McCauley Island at 1630 (4:30 pm) in daylight, anticipating arrival in Haida Gwaii by about 0730 next day. For the first time this year we unfurled our mainsail (double reefed for the night passage), and motored out of the inlet, north of Banks Island and into the open waters of the Hecate Strait. Two hours later we unfurled the genoa to motor sail for another hour until we had enough wind to turn the motor off and quietly sail for most of the night. This was the first time this year that we sailed with both main and genoa!

At 2000 (8:00pm) as we were drifting along at about 3.5 knots we saw a small pod of dolphins leisurely breaking the surface as they nonchalantly went  on their way. Unfortunately they did not come over to play around us. Shortly after sunset at 2215 (10:15 pm) there was a magnificent red glow on the horizon and illuminated the clouds with a wash of red, orange and yellow portending good weather (Red sky at night, sailors’ delight). The atmosphere was so clear I could see the towering tops of cumulus clouds below the horizon.


To supplement this beautiful afterglow of sunset, we saw another pod of dolphins. As they swam towards us, I called Judy up to see them. (She had turned in for the the first watch as we were following our usual passage watch system whereby I take the first watch from supper time until midnight and she takes the middle watch until 0400 or 0500 when I take over again.) They came over, a pod of 15 whitesided dolphins,  and played around the boat for 15 minutes or so, putting on a great performance demonstrating their smooth agility as they zigzagged in front of our bow, often turning on their sides to look up at us as we clapped and admired them from our foredeck. Sometimes they would quietly, gracefully break the surface in choreographed unison of two to four dolphins at a time, usually abeam or slightly forward to be sure we saw them. Seeing whales and dolphins at sea is one of the highs of sailing.

Judy relieved me shortly after midnight, but I was not able to get to sleep. One of the reasons I take the first watch is so I will be tired enough to fall asleep. I often take a Gravol (a sea sickness pill) to help me sleep. I tried sleeping up forward in our V-birth, but the wind shifted westerly causing us to pound into the waves, disturbing my attempt to sleep even more. At 0413 (4:13 am) Judy put the engine on to motor sail into the wind and furled the genoa. At sunrise at 0518 when I took over the watch, we furled the main and just motored the remaining 12 nautical miles to Sandspit Marina on Graham Island to arrive at their fuel dock at 0726 (7:26 am). I was exhausted as I had virtually no sleep all night. After we refuelled and went over to another slip, we both crashed for several hours until noon.

Sandspit has a nice marina with a fuel dock, showers and internet, but is remote from any town, grocery store or restaurant. An airport and ferry terminal are also located the far side of the town. There is a trail starting a few hundred yards from the marina along a creek bed, but we didn’t bother taking it. The town is called Sandspit as there is a large sandspit and shoaling area off the point such that boats travelling south have to go a couple of miles north to get around the shallows.

However our next destination, Queen Charlotte City, was 9 miles up the channel separating Graham and Moresby Islands,. There we anchored in the adjacent Bearskin Bay (53 15.020N, 132 04.732W) for the next four days. The town is a pleasant community strung out along the coast highway, ending at a forest logging road a couple of miles west. The two lane paved highway going east goes up the coast and over to Masset, Old Masset and ends at a Canadian Navy radio complex where it runs into a dirt logging road ending at the picturesque Tow Hill and a sandy estuary stretching for miles to another sandspit extending out the northeastern tip of Moresby Island. (see chartlet below)

To go to Gwaii Haanas, the National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, we needed to go to the Haida Heritage Centre at Skidigate, five miles east of Queen Charlotte City to take an orientation course and get our passes for the area. We were told by the Tourist Information Office that the Centre was open on Saturdays, and as it was late Friday afternoon, we thought we would go next day. We arranged for a taxi to take us there at 0830, and we waited for it to open at 0900. It didn’t! Saturday openings are for July and August only, and this was Saturday, June 25. Oh well!


Haida Heritage Centre  

We walked 2 miles back to the ferry terminal at Skidigate to check out the docks. We identified a floating dock where we could land our dinghy if we came by dinghy on Monday. We then hitched a ride the four miles back to Queen Charlotte City. There we went to a delightful but small farmers’ market for a few vegetables, and down the street to the local library for the internet.

That afternoon,I took the dinghy for a ride around the area. The channel does go all the way through between Moresby and Graham Islands,but there are several narrow shallow sections. We didn’t bother sailing through, but stayed in Bearskin Cove. However I saw a large barge low at the stern with logs piled high at the after end. It was being nudged by a tow boat towards a large buoy.


I then dinghied over to a large log boom filled with logs at the east end of town. Next day I saw some activity around the barge. They were loading more logs on it from a large log boom. I dinghied over and spent a half hour watching the process as they lowered the claw crane into the log boom to scoop up ten or twelve logs at a time to lift them and place them on the double stack of logs on the barge. Inside the log boom a small manoeuvrable log boat pushed the logs into a group ready for the next lowering of the claw to grab them up. It was quite interesting to see how carefully the claw released the logs onto the stack so that it didn’t topple. In the one picture below an errant log can be seen which may at some point slide into the sea. This is one of the environmental damages that logging causes, as the many lost logs end up cluttering the shoreline and are a navigational hazard in the open water. (I will be making an album for my website (www.veledaiv.ca) with many more images of the timber industry transporting logs by water.)


We found Queen Charlotte City a pleasant and convenient location, as we could land the dinghy at the town docks, and grocery stores, post office, liquor store, information centre, and library were all within a few minutes walk of the docks. Even the tidal grid beside the dock was well used.

Underwater hull maintenance and cleaning on a tidal grid

As we had to wait until Monday to do our orientation course and get our pass, we decided to rent a car on Sunday for a drive up island. The black line on the chartlet below indicates the drive we took all the way up to Masset and Old Masset as well as the logging road out to Tow Hill.


The coast line at Tow Hill is a large sandy estuary with families and cars venturing out onto the sands at low tide. Clamming is a popular activity, but we were too chicken to take our rental car onto the sands. We enjoyed a walk through the temperate rain forest, the trees and ground levels covered with inches of soft verdant moss, and enjoyed the view over the stretch of hard packed dry sands at low tide, as well as the pool pocked lava rocks facing the Pacific swells.

Judy on the boardwalk into the rain forest

Moss covered rain forest

Lava pools

           Tidal flats at Tow Hill  

Overlooking the estuary at Tow Hill

Upon our return to Masset and Old Masset we drove around the towns enjoying the many totem poles about which I will recount in my next log. Incidentally the word totem pole is seldom used as the poles have more specific purposes, such as memorial poles, mortuary poles, clan poles and house poles. I will feature many of these poles in my next log.