Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Port Hardy 13th of September

Inside Passage 27th of August - 13th of September

The journey from Ketchikan, USA to Prince Rupert, Canada was windless, countercurrentless and sunny! On the way, we overnighted in a pleasant anchorage in Dundas Island and continued therefrom to Prince Rupert flying the courtesy flags of both Canada and British Columbia, and the Q signal flag indicating that s/y Sarema was healthy and requested free pratique. 

We arrived in Prince Rupert in the evening and, after trying to contact by VHF both Cow Bay Marina and Prince Rupert Yacht and Rowing Club in vain, motored to Rushbrook Harbour where we found a place alongside a big motorboat. Since the very first thing one is supposed to do after arriving in a new country is to contact Customs and Immigration, we headed straight to the harbour master’s office to use their telephone but found that the office was already closed for the day. The telephone number of Customs and Immigration was on the notice board, and there was a public telephone nearby but the problem was that we didn’t have any Canadian money.  And even if we had had Canadian coins it wouldn’t have made any difference because the telephone was out of service. As last resort, we decided to try our Finnish mobile phone which had stopped operating upon our arrival in Alaska and had been non-functioning ever since. To our surprise, we were back in business. Clearly, the crossing of the border had worked wonders!

We spent two sunny days in Prince Rupert but it was wet and windy when we continued our journey. We stopped in Kumealon Inlet for one night but didn’t leave the boat at all because of the miserable weather. The following morning we motored to Lowe Inlet, under blue skies again. After casting anchor, we dinghied near the shore and dropped our crab pot in about seven metres of water and then made a sightseeing tour around the beautiful bay. When we came back to the boat we saw two young, handsome wolves on the shore. We stayed two days in Lowe Inlet so that Pekka could change the bearing and seals of the inner forestay furling (Profurl) which had passed their best before date ages ago. The somewhat troublesome repair was a success, unlike crabbing.

Our next stop was Coghlan Inlet wherefrom we continued to Khutze Inlet. There we stopped at the mouth of the bay to drop our shrimp pot and having done that noticed several humpback whales on the opposite side of the bay.  We motored to the middle of the bay and stopped there to observe the whales. Soon there were more than a dozen humpbacks feeding all around us!   

When we finally decided to leave Riitta said, ‘After all these whales, it would be nice to see a bear for a change.’ ‘I hope the whales don’t take our shrimp pot with them!,’ said Pekka. When motoring into the bay we saw a black bear fishing in a stream near the shore. And, I am sure you have already guessed, when we went to lift the shrimp pot the next morning, there was no shrimp pot there anymore. It had gone with the whales!  

We are quite certain that our wee shrimp pot caused no problem to the whale, but whales themselves can be a problem due to their intelligence. According to the National Fisherman, North Pacific sablefish fisheries have a major problem with sperm whales. These giants help themselves to the catch dangling from longline hooks like hungry customers from an all-you-can-eat conveyer belt sushi buffet. As whales often do, they used adaptive behaviour to determine when the boats were headed out to the fishing grounds and when to strike for their supper.

As hard as it might be imagine, the whales discovered the acoustic signature of a boat shifting in and out of gear meant fish on the line. And that sound has become a dinner bell of sorts to the whales. Over a few seasons the whales perfected their technique and can strip a longline clean, although the average loss is closer to a still astonishing 50 percent. Even when miles away, the gear vibrations are enough to alert a whale who can quickly narrow that distance to feast before the line is pulled to the surface. 

Our next destination was the narrow bay of Bottleneck Inlet. After anchoring we made our traditional tour of the bay and found a salmon stream at the head. In the stream, a black bear was lumbering around trying to find something to fish. This season’s salmon run was clearly over.

When we exited the bottleneck the next morning, we saw two humpback whales on the opposite side of the passage. One whale dived and, after a while, breached! But, alas, it was so far away that we were only able to enjoy this spectacle through binoculars. 

While we stayed put, the whales began nearing us and were soon well within reach of our cameras (Yes, Pekka is nowadays taking photos, too!). According to A Field Guide to the Marine Mammals of the World, it is important not to approach humpbacks too closely, maintaining at least 100 metre distance to the rear, as people have been killed when breaching whales have landed on their boats. 

In this case, however, it was the whales that were coming too close to us, and eventually we had to move further away from them. From a safe distance, we continued watching and enjoying their show as they kept slapping their long, wing-like flippers, moaning and roaring loudly. The meaning of this kind of behaviour is not known, but we think it’s a sign of a happy whale! 

Excerpt from Shearwater Resort and Marina's Visitor's Guide. A good example of the importance of proofreading!
The further south-east we travel, the more boats and people we see. It is almost impossible to find an anchorage where there are no other boats although the season is almost over. How crowded it must be in summer, we can only imagine. 

        On the move!

We are presently anchored  in Kwakume Inlet where we have been for the past three days waiting for the weather to improve. There was first a gale warning in effect which was then upgraded to a storm warning. To pass the time, we have been crabbing with our brand new crab pot we bought in Shearwater. So far, only four Dungeness crabs have found their way into the pot. There must be something wrong with either the bait (cat food as for shrimp) or the location. 
If the weather forecast holds true, we should be able to leave tomorrow morning and continue our interrupted passage towards Port Hardy.

The skies were clear and there was hardly a breeze left of the strong winds as we motored into Port Hardy’s Quarterdeck Marina today. From here we’ll continue towards Bellingham, USA which is going to be our last landfall before leaving for French Polynesia.

Farewell Alaska!

Despite the weather, our last summer in Alaskan waters was truly amazing! Never before had we seen so many bears fishing in the rapids, so many mama bears with a total of three cubs, so many humpback whales lunge-feeding, so many orcas so close to our boat, not to mention the one and only Rufous Hummingbird. Throughout the summer, also after crossing the border, the magic word has been SERENDIPITY, and we hope this magic will last us for the duration of our voyage!