July 8-12: Spider Group to Hodgson Cove
thumbnail July 9: We park Full Moon behind Typhoon Island (one of the outer islands of the Spider Group) and launch the boats for a reconnoitre. I have been happier for the last few hours than on any of our passages so far; the reason is that I can feel the Pacific swell at last. We're "on the outside", on the open water, and this reunion with the real ocean is unexpectedly emotional for me: I feel as if I've come home. The swell is low but steady, surging and muttering on the rocks. This water feels alive to me in a way that the Salish Sea (Strait of Georgia) never has.

thumbnail The water breathes gently around interesting rock formations, quite different from the sandstone galleries of the Gulf. Narrow clefts like this one are quite common -- enticing little micro-inlets.

thumbnail The latitude is not dissimilar to the northern bits of Japan, and the landscape is reminiscent. The water here is clean and deep; on the outer rocks it has that dark, glassy electric-blue colour I remember from coastlines far further South. Forests of bull kelp sway slowly in the surge. Sound, smell and sight are all acutely nostalgic; the sensation of homecoming is so strong it is almost an ache. I've missed the Pacific far more than I realised.

thumbnail At times we might almost be in a woodcut by Hiroshige or one of the other old masters.

thumbnail I wander off for a precious 30 minutes or so of solo exploration (ahhhh, just a wee taste of solitude and privacy!), and enjoy this pinnacle; every little bit of exposed rock seems to have a desperate, determined tree or two clinging ot the top.

thumbnail Full Moon sits peacefully behind Typhoon, sheltered from the swell, rolling very gently.

thumbnail It's time to get back on board and be on our way to Goose Group, where we plan to anchor for the night.

thumbnail The overcast is consistent; islands loom mysteriously out of a light mist, the world is monochrome.

thumbnail Full Moon's orange highlights seem almost cheeky in the vast gray spaces. We find our way to Goose Group in the early evening; I go ashore on Goose Island at a fairly low tide for a walk, but (dammit!) neglect to bring the camera with me. So I have no photographs of that desolate, windswept shore -- an end-of-the-world place, perched on the edge of the Pacific. The tide is falling and I walk on extensive sandbars; on one beach I find the tracks of a running deer crisscrossed with those of a wolf, and following the trail I find a chaos of wolf tracks of various sizes, and places where the cubs have rolled and played in the sand -- since the last high tide. Humans rarely visit this island and wolves are shy; they may have melted away into the trees at the sound of our engine. The forest here is dwarfish, twisted, and dark; the forest floor is not "earth" as we commonly think of it, but a jackstraw pile of fallen and rotting logs, propped up on occasional boulders, covered with a thin eiderdown of duff, rot, and mycelium. "Paths" are sometimes deer trails and sometimes just coincidental smooth spots in the logpile; the "ground" is soft and incautious feet may easily stumble into deep holes. I venture a little way into the gloom but, like a hobbit emerging from Mirkwood, am glad to regain the light and open space of the beach. I return to Full Moon in twilight and tell Jon about the wolf tracks; we're both delighted. Tomorrow we'll push on North to Weeteeam Bay on Aristazabal Island.

thumbnail July 10 -- Weeteeam Bay, on "Aristabal" (for some reason BC fishermen traditionally leave out the penultimate syllable). We ran all day in mist and fog, sometimes using radar; we saw radar ghosts of rocks and even a vessel or two that we never sighted by eye. The world was gray and cold, till finally we came to a snug landlocked bay, ringed by islets. There was a glimmer of light near sunset, as I recall, but when we woke the next morning there was nothing but fog.

July 11 -- Jon went off for a wander about in his kayak; I slept in a bit, then got up and stared out at the grayness. Criminy, I thought, I hope it's not going to be like this for the rest of the trip! I could see Jon's kayak, a ghostly sliver of red, pulled up on the shore a few tens of yards away.

thumbnail Sometime I'd like to see Weeteeam in the sunlight. As it is, all I remember is a cold gray dampness wrapped around some low indistinct islands. [JK]

thumbnail Waiting for Jon to return, words came to me and I scribbled them down:


flotsam at the edge
of vision, a red splinter
lost in mist, so frail:

a mere fingernail paring!
how can it hold half my heart?

Meanwhile, on his way back, Jon took a couple of nice pictures of Full Moon, which you see here. Then we left, running through patches of fog and patches of open water; radar on, radar off; Full Moon riding easily over the low, slow swell, closing eventually with the coast again.

thumbnail July 11, late afternoon -- with perfect timing we emerge from the edge of the fog bank (so for us "the sun came out"), and see the approaches to Gillen Harbour, with the mountains of Campania Island in the distance. My, that green land and blue water look good after two days of running in gray limbo! I sit up and pay attention; it's becoming a bit of a habit with us for me to drive the boat into harbour, practising my pilotage. We use GPS for getting a fix, but paper charts for actual navigation; this is one thing on which we are both (as skippers of our respective boats) in complete agreement. Chartplotter GPS are very cool toys, but when electronics fail it's good to have paper charts, pencil annotations, and coastal navigation skills!

thumbnail The approaches to Gillen are attractive in sunlight and give us some idea of what Weeteeam would have looked like on a more cheerful day.

thumbnail The three-tone colour scheme of these rocks (or islets) is very typical of the region. Campania looms in the distance; Jon's always wanted to visit it and climb its conspicuous peak, Mount Pender. I suggest we make a detour and check it out, but Jon thinks we should press on to Rupert.

thumbnail For now, Gillen is delightful. Our spirits rise as we anchor Full Moon in a gorgeous wide bay with good holding, surrounded by a low gentle shoreline, green and soft. A small river or creek runs into the bay not too far off, and we head for it immediately.

thumbnail Full Moon has spent a lot of time here in her day. This was one of Kenny and Ray's favourite anchorages. I make sure to take several pictures to show the old boys later.

thumbnail There is not a soul in sight, no sound of aeroplanes or choppers; no sound of infernal combustion of any kind. The silence is vast and peaceful.

thumbnail The little river is shallow and clean; as we paddle into its water, barely deep enough for the 'yaks, I'm startled by the passage of a sizable school of small fish, darkish gray/brown with stripes. Jon thinks they are river perch; we can actually hear their passage beneath the kayak hulls, a strange rattling sound like the takeoff of a flock of water birds, or distant applause. Jon decides that the river is worth bathing in; I think it's just a bit too cold, so I go off exploring while he takes a splash-bath in the shallows.

thumbnail Clean(er) and refreshed, Jon rides down the little river to meet me; not for the first or last time I reflect that he's a handsome fellow and paddles his craft with a certain grace.

thumbnail We circumnavigate the bay, exploring the water meadows, taking individual rambles ashore here and there. Jon is more fond of landing and bushwhacking about in the woods; I prefer to stay in the kayak and nose into every possible inlet and creek.

thumbnail The forest here is quite different from the serried ranks of conical conifers further inland. The trees seem ancient, alien; a pterodactyl passing over would not seem out of place here. [photo JK]

thumbnail Your humble narrator, enjoying the "model islands" on the far side of the bay. [JK]

thumbnail Full Moon with Mt Pender in the background...

thumbnail ... a view that Jon is enjoying.

Later on he'll tell me how he heard wolves playing in the woods -- cubs yipping and tussling -- and still later, that night, we'll both hear the music of the pack howling in the middle distance. (There are plenty of deer on these outer islands, and where there are deer there are wolves.) It's wonderful to be in this place -- about as close to wilderness as you can get any more, a place without visible relics of human habitation, a place where people are mostly not. Gillen was a notable anchorage for us and I have put it on my list of places I want to come back to in Taz :-)

thumbnail July 12 -- we leave Gillen bound for Hodgson Cove. The fog has closed in again; we travel in a gray world. As in coastal California, the fog bank rolls in overnight or in the morning and back again (to some unpredictable distance) by late afternoon.

thumbnail On the way we pass Campania Island and Mount Pender, and the fog breaks up for a while -- a little sigh of longing from Jon, who really would like to stop there and do some mountain climbing. I say I don't see why we shouldn't, but he reminds me that I'm the one who wants to be back in Nanaimo by mid-August, and if we keep taking extra days here and there we won't make it back on schedule. [JK]

thumbnail Jon takes a couple of wistful pictures of Campania, and I resolve that "next time" we will go there and stay a day or two, so he can climb that mountain at last. Meanwhile we press on to Hodgson Cove...

thumbnail ... a large quiet bight behind a narrow and slightly tricky entrance. If memory serves, on the way in Jon tried to pass on the wrong side of an islet; this was most uncharacteristic, as his navigation is usually meticulous and accurate. I was standing lookout on the bow, waving frantically at the helmsman as Full Moon slowly approached some unfriendly looking rocks :-) Jon deftly stopped the boat and backed away for a second try. In these remote places, the consequences of error might be severe indeed; we are both relieved to get the hook down without further incident. Once inside, we found a landlocked anchorage of perfect calm and peace. Jon took a nap and I wandered off in my kayak for a look around.

thumbnail Mirror calm and utterly silent, the anchorage seemed far more than just a few hundred miles distant from the urban world (we have travelled some 400 miles from Nanaimo at this point). Multiple bays and islets invited more exploration, but... as usual, we had to move on. The following day we would head north and east to Oona River on Porcher Island via Petrel Channel -- our last stop before Prince Rupert.