Friday, October 3, 2008

"Just a couple of days..." part 2

It's 0830 in Blind Channel, and no one is out of bed yet. The pounding rain makes it hard to motivate. But I must do my duty to Alison and finish my description of my section of the trip so far. Hello again, folks. Wally Grundle, at your service, guest blogging ("guest-blogging?") for the crew of Juichi.

Now, where was I? Oh, right: Bond Sound. Up earlier than usual, we were caffeinated and fed in time for a 10:15am departure. We pulled the crab pot and were surprised by several rough-looking crabs -- keepers, tho' -- and a flounder (hake? halibut? whatever: flat and ugly). Ron cleaned the crabs on the stern anchor, and Alison took them below to steam and pick. I helped Ron pull the stern tie, and then, using knowledge gained through several sessions with Alison, I hauled and stowed the anchor without any help. I am now quite clear on where she gets her arms and shoulders; that's hard work! Ron motored us out of our anchorage and down Bond Sound, while Alison treated us to sausage and cheese muffins. As we neared the end of the sound, we spied Margie and Chuck on Dream Catcher just ahead of us in Tribune Channel, but they were too far ahead to say hi. We continued down the channel with the intended destination of Tsakonu Cove. However, the closer we got to the end of Tribune, the more the weather kicked up out of the southeast. The guides all indicate that Tsakonu should be avoided when the weather comes from the southeast, so we revised our plans, turned through Clapp Passage and down Chatham Channel for Cutter Cove.

We'd talked about stopping at Minstrel Island, supposedly a ghost town of sorts, but from the water it didn't look either too ghosty or too interesting. Supposedly, Minstrel Island had a larger population than Vancouver at the turn of the last century, then, when the local businesses dried up (or some other bad economic turn), so did the town. In any case, the weather had changed from blustery and overcast to calm and sunny, so we made tracks for our anchorage at Cutter Cove. Alison let me set the hook myself (yay!), we got our travelling duds put away, and proceded to spend the rest of the day relaxing in the delicious sunshine. Alison took a row into a creek at the head of the cove where she heard but didn't see (and got thoroughly spooked by) bears, and came rowing back as fast as she could. Ron and I sat and read on the deck. After Alison's return, there were cocktails and a wonderful sunset. Thanks to our luck that morning with the crab pot, Alison whipped up a marvelous crab alfredo with zucchini, accompanied by some really tasty garlic and cheese biscuits.

Alrighty. We're up to Wednesday, the first of October. A loooong day. Underway at 10:35am from Cutter Cove with coffee and banana bread in the belly (Alison has perfected her banana bread; it really is a perfect power food), we set out down Chatham Channel to Havannah Channel and into the wild and wooly Johnstone Strait. Johnstone is known for taking bad weather and turning it worse, for taking an ugly sea state and turning it dangerous, so we wanted to take every advantage of the lovely weather we were enjoying, and transit as much of it as we could in one shot. We got to Port Neville earlier than we'd expected, and decided to pass it by, and, in doing so, headed out of Johnstone into Sunderland Channel, past Topaze Harbour and Bessborough Bay, finally turning into Forward Harbour and setting the hook in Douglas Bay. A thirty-four mile day, but, given the weather that was gonna hit us the next day, a very prudent decision by the masters of the vessel, Ron and Alison.

Alison had read about a trail that lead from the beach where we'd anchored in Douglas Bay that lead up and over the Thynne Peninsula, which protects the mouth of Forward Harbour and separates Douglas Bay from Bessborough Bay. The descriptions tell of the trail being marked by "flotsam and jetsam" and "beach finds" -- turns out this means trash. Still, the trail was very pleasant, if somewhat eccentrically marked, and we were treated to an extremely beautiful sunset over Bessborough Bay. One of the highlights of the hike was a flight of Arctic terns that swooped into the bay with such speed that their final hard turn, all in formation, made a noise like a jet engine. I didn't know birds could make a noise like that. We all gawked and, after the dull roar of their turn-and-brake maneuver had died down and the terns had landed, we gawdanged and whoaed and giggled a bit. Truly impressive.

We hiked back to the dinghy, stopping to collect several pounds of good dirt for the composting head aboard Juichi (truly a delightful bit of ingenuity), and rowed slowly back in the calm and very clear water, pausing occasionally to marvel at some enormous sea stars. Alison treated her gentlemen to a dinner of stuffed pork chops and roasted potatoes. Since dinner was served later than usual because of the long day and the adventures ashore, we only played one game of cribbage, which Alison took in a close finish.

The wind kicked up overnight (later, we'd discover from others' local knowledge that we were anchored in the single windiest spot in the whole harbor, the very focal point of the swirling williwaws produced by Forward Harbor's steep walls). I got up to relieve myself over the side in the middle of the night; the sliding of the companionway hatch woke Ron up directly, scaring him to think that the sound he'd heard was the keel scraping on the bottom, telling him that we'd dragged the anchor in the wind and were now only moments away from foundering on the shore. He pulled on his pants with great speed and dashed up the companionway, looking frantically out toward the shore, sure of the worst, when, spying the shore just where it should be and Juichi lying just where she should be, he turned to see me, confused, heading back toward the companionway. He nearly jumped out of his skin. He'd taken such care below to dress quickly but quietly so as not to wake me, and was so preoccupied by the potential peril, that he hadn't stopped to wonder why I was sleeping so quietly as he dressed. (Note to those who do not know me: I am not a quiet sleeper. "Chainsaw cutting open a tin roof" is one of the milder descriptions from the recent past.) His sudden alarming fear -- both for our safety and for the huge, lumbering dark shape in the cockpit heading straight for him -- turned to amused relief, and we all had a good laugh. Ron then spent the next three hours staring at the ceiling in the v-berth, thanks to his good pal adrenaline. Ha!

The morning of 10/02 was grey and blustery, but the hook still held solid, a good testament to both Lewmar's reproduction of the classic Bruce anchor form (Juichi's is a 44# for those interested), as well as to the reports of good holding in Forward Harbour's sand and shell bottom. So versatile and solid is that Lewmar "Bruce" that Ron and Alison haven't once set the CQR that for so long adorned Juichi's bow (and still does, unused) on this voyage.

Because of tides and currents, our departure from Douglas Bay in Forward Harbour would be a late one. I made crusts for quiche while Alison and Ron plotted the next days' course. When I was done, Alison took over in the galley, and I helped Ron sort and stow charts. The smoked salmon quiche came out of the oven first. It was stunningly delicious. Alison is, as I've mentioned before, a frickin' genius in the galley. A perfect blend of cheese and egg and filling, with little pockets of molten cream cheese goodness surprising here and there. While we waited for Alison's next culinary masterstroke, Ron and I hauled the dinghy up and squared away the foredeck for departure. Given the water we had ahead of us that day, we could afford nothing loose or moving on the deck.

The crab quiche came out next and was equally delicious. Alison had augmented her recipe by drizzling hollandaise sauce into the mix, adding to the flavor dimensions and increasing the creaminess ratio (that's math; look it up). She's terribly demure about her quiche recipe, saying it's nothing more than six eggs and a cup of milk, but I know differently. The secret ingredient is... nutmeg. You thought I was gonna say "love," didn't you? Whatever, man.

Finishing the quiche and getting into our foul-weather gear ("foulies" for those uninitiated), we chuckled nervously as the wind really picked up, going from 10-15kts to a steady 15 with gusts over 20. The williwaws pounded down on the water in an almost petulant fashion, as if defying us to weigh anchor and just try, just try to get underway, punks. Alison hauled the anchor, and almost the moment we pulled out of Douglas Bay toward the mouth of Forward Harbour, the wind dropped off to nothing. Like a teasing relent from a bully, the wind falsly raised our hopes of better conditions in Wellbore Channel, and then, as we entered the channel, dashed those hopes to pieces. 20kts steady with gusts over 30. Ouch. We drove into the wind-vs-current chop, bouncing merrily if tensely along, our spirits bouyed by a pod of porpoises that bobbed and dashed merrily through our wake, clearly playing with all the abandon for which small cetaceans are known. With a sudden burst of bow wake and a confusion of already rough waters, we plowed into Whirlpool Rapids. The current tried vainly to wrest control of Juichi from Ron's capable hands, but he held fast and guided us through. The rain redoubled its efforts to discourage us, but Alison fought back with hot tea (Tazo Wild Sweet Orange with a healthy dollop of honey: recommended!). The weather and water finally let up south of Green Point Rapids, and we pulled into Blind Channel Resort in a light rain. After tieing up and paying our moorage, we enjoyed wonderful hot showers, relaxing reading with the rain pounding down on the cabin top, music and another delicious dinner, finally being put to sleep by Ron's ever-so-favorite sleepymusic, Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygène (insert snide comment here; I would, but I was fast asleep halfway through the third movement).

That brings us current. It's now 10:30am, Alison is whipping up French toast with blueberry compote as I blog and Ron charts. The rain continues, increasing and decreasing like a child playing with a faucet. Despite the weather, our spirits are high as we joke about being lucky to get out of port by 2pm. We have dry foulies, clean laundry (thanks to the machines at the resort), and our bellies will soon be full, thus we have nothing about which to grouse.

Not sure where we're headed from here, but I may get a third poke at this guest blogging gig when we get to Powell River and I hop off (depends on what Alison says; she hasn't read either of these entries yet, but I can hope for yet a moment more of ephemeral fame in the annals of the Adventures of Juichi). Gotta sign off now; the rain is so thick it's messing with the wifi reception and I don't want to lose all of this brilliant exposition.

Until next I blog, I remain most faithfully and humbly yours,
Wallet B. Grundle, Esq.

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