The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 19

A basket Starfish

THE ADVENTURES OF THE AUDREY ELEANOR
MAGIC 2 UNDER THE SEA

In the previous storey we left you while we were floating under the stars in the hot tub.

There is a small community in Squirrel Cove. The general store is well stocked and has a decent marine hardware section. This is our introduction to “the oyster man”; he is located on Cortes Island and supplies a few of the local stores with his product. Locally grown and smoked oysters, amazing. The cans of oysters are way too small no matter size they are.

We decide that we need to stretch our sea legs and walk north along the paved road that leaves the General Store for other points on Cortes Island. In the ditches we discover the end of the summer’s crop of blackberries or brambles. I have picked these berries before. I refuse to climb down into the ditches telling the Captain that I preferred to stay as far out the brush as I could. The things are infested with snakes…he laughs at me.

I can see this funny look come over his face as he steps further into the brambles, the thorny brush rips your skin, but that look on his face tells me that he isn’t parting with his skin, I bet he has discovered the “snakes!” Sure enough, he says hmm…there are snakes aren’t there. I take a stick and pull the thorny branches back; the earth is writhing with garter snakes slithering just out of the reach of my stick.

Between us we pick lots of berries for jam and a few extra pints get dedicated to a beautiful blackberry tincture. (Ask me about this stuff)

There is a trail that connects Squirrel Cove to Von Don Up Inlet on the opposite side of the Island. We plan to anchor in Von Don Up so passed on walking the trail. We roared back to Audrey in the zodiac, pulled anchor and left to seek out another adventure. The water in this area has been reported to get as warm as Mexican waters; the oysters grow huge here because of it. This time of the year I preferred to laze in the hot tub.

Von Don Up is a long narrow inlet that allows you deep access into the mid section of Cortes Island. Again, we are not alone in what is considered a late time for travel for this area. There is an eye-catching yacht, custom built in Holland that is anchored in the centre of the bay. The lady from aboard this vessel is a larger sized woman. The custom-rowing skiff has obviously been built for her. She skims across the water with total ease and grace, it’s wonderful to watch. She looks free and light, as she appears to escape the weight of the world.

Whale town is our next stop. The ferry connects Cortes Island to Quadra Island at this point and from Quadra Island the ferry connects to Vancouver Island and Campbell River.

We have difficulty setting the anchor; the bottom of this bay is all sand. The anchor sets us within talking distance of a 65’ sailboat. Two teen-age boys are swabbing the decks. They come with additional family members that total twelve. They have been living on the sailboat for two years, wintering on Vancouver Island. It is an amazing feat; they are all home schooled by their parents. There would be no escape space anywhere onboard this sailboat with twelve people, you would be praying for good weather.

The set of the anchor concerns us so our trip ashore is short. We are on to the next stop, Gorge Harbour. The entrance to this harbour is impressive. Narrow natural rock face cliffs complete with ancient rock drawings guard the passageway. The channel opens into a large bay the centre of which is a large shell fish farm. The sky is streaked with pinks and purples; it’s time to settle in for the night.

We decide to splurge and go ashore for dinner. There is a commercial dock to portside and with a little house beside it has been converted into a restaurant, it looks magical. The anchor is dropped and we roar ashore for dinner. The water that drips off of the oars is glowing with phosphorous, we are leaving a trail of twinkling lights in the black water behind us, Fairy lights in the Ocean are unbelievable.

Dinner is wonderful, sitting on the little deck with lights twinkling on the shore and reflecting off of the still water. The smoked black cod was the best that I’ve had and that means beating out the Empress Hotel in Victoria for first place. The night is so calm that the candle on our table barely flickers as it casts shadows on the wine glasses.

The next morning we reluctantly haul anchor to cruise to Read Island, we are going fishing after all. Evans Bay by Read Island is a new anchorage for us. There is a house for sale at the head of the bay; this is a sparsely inhabited area. Once the anchor is set however, a small boat heads our way. They are an older couple and they own the house at the head of the bay, their house is for sale. The Captain asks about crabbing in the area, the response is that they have been here for twenty-five years and there are no crabs. Damn is there nothing left anywhere in this south country!

The couple is heading to their winter home in Campbell River, health has dictated that they spend time closer to health facilities; this is why their island home is for sale.
The fishing gear needs to be sorted and with our heads down we don’t see the tidy little Grand Banks named “HERS” approaching. There is a persistent knocking on the hull, up come our heads as the visiting Captain hands over a large slab of cod…”hope you like fish he says, just caught it this morning.” He also is heading for Campbell River to pick up his wife, after all the boat is “HERS”. They live in Los Angles, but keep their boat moored in Seattle. Business brings them to Seattle often so they keep moorage and use HERS as their floating apartment while they are there. Holidays simply mean cruising away from the dock. I’d never thought of AUDREY as waterfront property on the Sunshine coast, it was a different perspective.

Following his directions we set out to become the fish slayers. On the first cast the Captain lands a two-pound sea perch, good that’s supper, but not so. He says its bait for the “big” one, yeah right; it would have to be a giant to chase that bait. It is a giant; the cod that almost immediately swallows this perch looks too big to pull into the zodiac.

Have you seen the size of the heads on those things! He’s going to eat us. The cod is four feet long with an overgrown head; the cod head will be crab bait, what the heck you never know till you try right. That is, if we can fit the head into the crab trap minus his cheeks. As the giant cod is gaffed and held to the side of the boat he lets go of the perch. The perch executes a mighty twist, wrenches the hook from his mouth and swims away, perfect!

The sky is red this evening and a strange light is reflecting up from the depths of the ocean. We decide that we will watch for the evening star from the front deck. The dimming switch on the stars is being turned up brighter and brighter. Thick billowing rain clouds are building and rolling towards us. As the evening skies darken eerie lights start to appear in the black water. My favourite, there is phosphorous here.

Jellyfish show up first, outlined in electric blue and pulsating. Now we see tiny flickers of darting light as tiny and usually translucent bugs begin to appear. There are out lines of fish darting after the bugs. They show up as submersed comets in the water. The ocean is pulsating with millions of flickers and streaks of light lined creatures. The sensation that the ocean is breathing intimidates me; the whole sea is boiling with life, it is a living entity. Millions of creatures are now visible to the naked eye; the thought of swimming in this soup of life makes even the well-seasoned diving Captain think twice.

The rain hits in huge drops.

Now we are Disneyland. The giant raindrops hit the water and explode in a million reverberating droplets that burst into showers of light. The hills and bay are glowing in green light. Creatures below the surface appear to be swimming in thickening lime Jell-O. Torrents of rain bounce against the surface of the ocean and we are driven inside. The pounding raindrops flash back green light and illuminate the saloon …this really is magic!

P.S. We did catch three edible sized crabs in our trap; they had a tight squeeze getting in beside that cod head. Attached to the bottom of the trap was a basket starfish; we had come across these outside of Haines. I am glad that we had seen this before after last night we might have thought that we’d captured a sea going alien.

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 18

MAGIC 1 FLOATING UNDER THE STARS

MAGIC 1 FLOATING UNDER THE STARS

It’s time for a little magic. The end of what we thought wasn’t a bad summer is drawing to a close. The locals in Pender Harbour and Madeira Park complain about climate change and in their minds, lack of a summer at all. I admit that it wasn’t as hot as I would have liked it, but the days were mostly clear and sunny. Diving directly off of the dock into the ocean had happened once or twice. To the Captains delight, some of the bar maids came down at night to skinny dip.

I finally got a chance to experiment with my new dry suit. It is a strange sight to see, trying to keep upright and walk half sub-merged around the docks causes people to do a double take when you walk/ flop past their boat way out past the shore line. We have a floating hot tub that we keep tied dockside so if the water feels too cool for a dip we just heat her up a little. I have to say that there is nothing that compares to hot salt water for relaxing or making your skin feel like velvet. After sanding the gunnels on the boat all day it feels wonderful.

Labour day weekend has come and gone and so have the crowds. After the solitude of living and travelling in the north, the crowds are really unsettling. Desolation Sound is well known and well travelled with southern boaters. It’s a skip and a jump for boaters travelling from Vancouver. Depending on the speed of their boats they can get to Squirrel Cove on Cortes Island in a day. Pender Harbour is a natural stop over; known as the Venice of the North, it has beautiful, secure little coves, several waterfront restaurants and bars and the “Royal” Yacht clubs for both Vancouver and Seattle. While the club members hadn’t been the most friendly of folks, over the summer they provided all of us summer locals with great entertainment.

The Royal Yacht Club ships are magnificent to watch coming into harbour, you can almost walk across this bay on anchored yachts. Dodging them with the zodiac to get to the Garden Bay Pub takes skill. We have airplane wheels on our zodiac, this makes us run a little lower in the water and we create a bigger wake then we’d like. It’s slow going but allows for a bit of conversation with the little guys. The Yacht clubs are a “member’s only” situation for moorage or participation. Well when the big boys with the big flags arrive, it’s like watching elephants trying to step through a field of mice and not squash them or worse get their feet dirty.

Consideration for fellow boaters seems to depend on size and anything below the extensive gunnels of the ‘ Royal’ yachters is almost none existent as they motor toward the Seattle yacht club. In their wake the little sailboats truly look like pendulums in clocks as their owners attempt to maintain themselves topside with their barking miniature dogs and sloshing martinis.

Sound carries very well on water, verbal challenges charge across the harbour flying back and forth accompanied by the scrapping sound of metal on fibreglass. With the distraction by these colourful words one Skipper has forgotten that there were only two feet separating him from the boat on his portside, he now has managed to secure that neighbours anchor line as well. The angry voices now arrive in stereo. Ah-h-h life in the densely populated south!

The Captain is not a sports fisherman, he subsistence fishes. Isn’t it amazing how really basic forms of words have changed as the lack of understanding them grows? He fishes to feed us. The price of a small Dungeness crab at Madeira Park is $25. The price per pound for fish of any type is out of this world; this is all incentive to go fishing. I love rockfish and have even before they became a trendy type of food. Rockfish has become trendy because of the lack of salmon, cod or halibut. I once had to process 60 lbs of Hake fillets that I was lucky enough to come across; it’s a beautiful delicate fish.

We spend a lovely day drifting around the small islets in the mouth of Pender Harbour looking for rockfish. A time warp happens, six hours of floating on the ocean drifted by and we have nothing but a suntan to show for our time, it is perfect. But we really did want to catch some fish. We would obviously have to get out of town if we wanted to catch anything of a size for eating.

The timing is right, most people should be gone, we could head for Cortes Island, circumnavigate it and do some exploring in our old haunts around Read Island…it is time to go fishing. In peak summer months your anchorage has to be established by noon in order to find the room to set your hook. Shore tying then becomes necessary so that you do not to swing into your neighbour. It is very crowded, for the free spirit, the guidebooks have listed numerous small-protected coves as anchorages. They state that these beautiful little coves will provide privacy. This is so that you need not listen to your neighbours music or dog barking at EVERY seagull. (No, this is not so cute)

The guide books must have been published prior to fish and shellfish farming, just about ever bay listed has now been partitioned off with nets, floats, logs and very strong “don’t even think about getting close to us “ signs…all fish farms. It’s a segregated area, yachties to their space and the working fishers to theirs. Boat wakes wreck havoc on shellfish farms where mussels and oysters dangle in the salt brine on tenuous lines.

Stories of sport fishers spending a week to get a single salmon are pretty common. They have way more patience then we do. Why oh why do we allow commercial fishing in the mouths of spawning creeks and rivers people? If they can’t go home to make babies there will be NO fish. And where is the crab? The Captain truly is the crab slayer and all summer had only produced a few small rock crabs that still needed to grow up. They were sent home to the deep to develop some bulk. We want to head into less populated areas where there still might be some fish and crab left.

Audrey leaves the dock at Pender Harbour and we head up Malaspina Straight towards Powell River, Texada Island is on our Portside. It’s slightly breezy, but still hot enough to get sunburnt on the flying bridge. Just past Powell River and before Savoury Island I notice something strange in the water. The Captain slows us down for a better look.

Curioser and curioser, there is a seal in the water with a 15 lb salmon in it’s mouth. On each side of him are two seagulls both determined to steal his dinner. This seal is not concerned in the least; he is more interested in watching us motor past. The gulls are playing tug of war with the salmon and he just keeps on watching us. Slowly, and seemingly without breaking the water he sinks out of sight, with his fish. It’s a sign. We continue up past Lund and drop anchor in the Copeland Islands. Tomorrow we head for Squirrel Cove on Cortes Island.

The distances here are deceptive; everything is way closer than in the north. The next morning it only takes us an hour to arrive at Squirrel Cove. The floating bakery is closed for the season and there are two other boats already anchored here. With most anchorages in the south you need to have holding tanks for sewage, a very good idea as I can only imagine what kind of sludge there would be in these low flushing inlets with the populations that visit here.

There is an oyster farm in here as well, regardless of the holding tank rule we decide not to buy their oysters. The two little sailboats don’t look big enough to hold their crew, never mind a holding tank. Regardless, the water is crystal clear with starfish waving their arms at the oysters.

The moon is full and the stars are low enough to touch. Small lights twinkle off in the distance onboard the sailboats. We slip into our floating hot tub. The hot salt water closes over the aches of the day. A long line gets attached to the tub and we shove off into the soft darkness. Laying back watching the satellites and falling stars in the quiet black night drifting softly with the tide, if you reach up with your hand I’m sure you can tip the big dipper and get a drink, wouldn’t it be nice if it was tequila…. we are afloat under the stars. (The water in the tub is really, really warm!)

This is magic 1; the next storey is magic 2.

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 17

MATCH CUP RACE (A PRETEND) RACE IN AUCKLAND NEW ZEALAND ABOARD THE 1995 AMERICAS CUP CONTENDER. MARCH 2009 MY CAPTAIN AT THE HELM BRINGING US BACK INTO AUCKLAND HARBOUR.

SPRING IN THE HARBOUR

Spring is late coming to call in Pender Harbour this year.  Does that make you in the north feel better?  Now you should know that by late I mean the cherry blossoms are out, but the froths of pink flowers haven’t formed archways along the streets yet.  This is the beginning of April. Looking up Gunboat Bay a few days ago, fresh snow was visibly clinging to the mountains as far down as I could see. The snow had almost made it to sea level but a gentle southern breeze fluttered in and melted the “fairy dust” as I have recently heard it referred to.  I am appreciating that it has left quietly and without a trace.

Spring translates into rebirth and renewal for me.  The miserable snow is gone and the sun is producing life-giving heat.  Maybe not enough to warm your bones but possibly just enough to crisp your face, especially if it’s reflecting back from those sheets of ice that still cling to the lake surfaces for those of you in the Yukon!  Here in the Harbour the rays are bouncing back from a sparkling ocean.

Renewal aboard Audrey means removal of old paint and varnish and strange green things that have grown up over the winter.  When we first bought our boat a fern grew in the windowsill on the dash beside the gauges at the helm.  I have tried to nurture and maintain a healthy looking fern through out a Yukon winter with difficulty and the fact that this wonderful piece of greenery simply and routinely chose our boat for its home was to me a wondrous gift.

The Captain ripped it out by its tender little roots and proudly displayed it to me trophy like…he could not comprehend the look of horror on my face, as my only ever volunteer houseplant lay mutilated in his hands.  The fern has returned every spring since and I now pluck the beautiful parasite from the sill.  Plant growth causes wood to deteriorate.

The captain is in the “troll hole” changing filters and maintaining his perfect Perkins engines, his engine room gleams white with cleanliness.  Payback for the time he spends in the engine room is that we can turn the keys on Audrey at any time and the engines roar to life. The lines are cast off and there could be a new adventure in the making.  Crossing Dixon Entrance or battling giant waves, the Perkins engines have never failed us due to his time and care.

I am the sander/painter.  One of our inside jokes is that Rick is a welder and yet he possesses a wooden boat and is allergic to sawdust. Yes, I know that an allergy specialist should certify this.  I love doing the work it is gratifying to bring back the shine on the bright work and Audrey starts to pose in the sunshine as the grime of winter is washed away.

Lying on the teak decks with the heat of the afternoon sunshine on your shoulders is almost perfect.  Having a brush full of Tung oil and being able to smooth it out over the mahogany planks and expose the beautiful colour and grain of the wood: well with that and the G U elevens (Newfie for gull) serenading me, this is just plain heaven. I will take this over having to work inside any day.

The forecast for this Easter weekend is that temperatures should rise to 17c with sunshine all day long.  It is already 6c at 7 a.m. so I’m thinking that we will beat that forecast today.

The hot tub is already in the water and will be floating in the sea beside the dock again today.  We had a visitor the first night that we had the hot tub back in the sea.  There was woofing and barking and much carrying on in water.  The sound combined with the slapping of waves against the dock was causing us to wonder what was in the water with us.  We could not determine whether it was a curious sea lion or a sea otter checking us out in the dark.

‘Damned tourists keeping him awake at night,’ is what I suppose he is thinking.  I just didn’t want whatever was thrashing around in the ocean to join us in the much warmer hot tub.  The gulls fly over the tub and seem to do a double take and come back for another look.  I’m thinking we look like soup.

Spring is signalled in Pender Harbour by the white sails of the sailing clubs rounding Skardon Islands. These Islands mark the inside entrance to Pender Harbour.  The Islands   create the perfect course for sea trials for the sailboats.  These boats gracefully do figure eights around each other, Ocean going ballerinas.  The white sails are billowing like sheets on a line against a backdrop of a deep Blue Ocean and the soft green of the cedars.

This winter we were fortunate enough to participate in a Match cup sailboat race in Auckland, New Zealand.  I had never sailed before and wanted to experience the “other” boating style.   A sailboat race was the perfect birthday gift promised for a significant birthday; although I had never expected it to happen in New Zealand.  We were racing with the ’95 New Zealand Americas Cup contender.

The saying goes something like ‘a bad boating day is a great sailing day’.  Well after all of the extreme boating weather that we’d been through I figured that if you can’t beat the weather you might as well learn how to use it.  IT WAS WONDERFUL!  It’s like flying over the water, the 25knot winds filling the huge sails to the limits, creaking ropes, the hiss of the water racing by, I loved it…so now what to do?  So many choices.  The Captain took the helm during the race and I thought he suited it very well.

I have to trek up to the Grasshopper Pub in the Pender Harbour Hotel to hit a hot spot to email this storey off.  Zipping over by zodiac to the Copper Sky café in Madeira Park is another great place to have a coffee and a chat with Scottie and the boys while the email heats up.  But it’s a tough place to get out of and the afternoon will be biting at my heels by the time we are inspired to leave.  The Grasshopper Pub wins out as the communication point of choice.  The view is remarkable and I have been watching the hillside for the resident doe and this year’s fawn.  The climb to the pub is extreme, but the chances of seeing the fawn are very good.

Daffodils show sunny faces on the hillside as I climb skyward to the Grasshopper.  They are flashing yellow smiles throughout Madeira Park and Garden Bay.  Primroses offer brilliant colours in unexpected places.  The Easter Bunny will have to look for these special spots to hide her Easter Eggs.  The Easter Bunny hops into Pender Harbour as well as Marsh Lake, Yukon Jianna Mia.

From my crow’s nest on the deck above the marina, I can see the tide churning out of Gunboat Bay at a hard-boil.  When she winds up the tide runs at about 5 knots, and with the wind whipping against her it creates a small rapid.   The deceptive Woman of the Sea, at slack tide the waters are placid and create the illusion of perfect moorage. There have been a few unwary sea goers who have dropped anchor here; everyone makes an effort to warn them that they will probably be swept away at tide change. Few ever spend the night; there are nice people here. The benefits of fast water are that it flushes the bay and keeps everything sparkling clean.  It also helps to prevent growth from forming on your boat’s bottom and no one wants growth on his or her bottom.

Across the harbour is Garden Bay the serious transients are already arriving.  Three sailboats have dropped anchor and set up house keeping there.  By mid summer you could possibly walk across on the decks of boats anchored in the harbour.

A warm breeze is wafting the perfume from budding willows leaves and cedar and fir trees growing in loamy rich soil across the deck.  The air is always salty; the clouds drift by in a deep blue sky.  I can see the doe directly below me and what could be last year’s fawn, or maybe its a doe friend and they are out for a walk together, no new baby as of yet, its late in arriving as well.  The tinkle of ice cubes in a tall glass while sitting out on a deck overlooking the Ocean is THE most definite sign of spring.  Happy Easter everyone.

P.S.  Bob and Kait I hope you have a wonderful Easter, you should be here…love from your mommy.

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 16

One of many “Garden of Edens” we encountered on our adventures. The picture below is of Petersburg, Alaska. Fishing and logging village that has purposely refused cruise ships to commercialize their lives. They maintain their Identity and have a healthy and sustainable economy. Their children will be able to fish unpolluted waters and breathe clean air.

GARDEN OF EDEN

Hurricane force winds mean it’s just another day on the west coast. We had weathered two such storms in Potts Lagoon, located towards the north end of Vancouver Island. These are the winds that flattened Stanley Park in Vancouver B.C., Canada. Four days of sitting in the rain is wearing on us. The crab traps are providing fresh “meat”, but new sights and people that we had yet to meet are just around the corner…. time is dragging.

We were anchored beside a summer floating camp in Potts Lagoon; three houses set on floats, which looked to be a great place to hide out during the summer. It appears that someone has this idea as well, they are hiding out for the winter. The first night that we were slammed by the hurricane winds, we could smell wood smoke. We distinctly smelled wood smoke as the storm raged around us. This is not a good thing on a wooden boat and it becomes terrifying in the black of the night with the wild winds of the furies screaming at you.

We set out in the zodiac to see if we could raise anyone in the float houses. We circle the houses, call hello several times, there is no response. Who ever is inside does not want to socialize, we understand. Every night we smell the wood smoke, our anonymous neighbours don’t use any lights and we never see them. After four days of knowing that you have someone living beside you that doesn’t want to be seen, well, it just wears you out. I want to go, these anonymous neighbours are giving me the creeps.

Today’s the day! We are attempting to make it to Port Neville. Audrey heads up Knight Inlet and cruises around Minstrel Island, its bumpy but we moving. As we get closer to Johnston Straight the seas start to build again. The Coast Guard out of Comox are following us in a helicopter (they have done this before, it is getting personal). It’s rough going, but compared to some of the rides we’ve had, it’s bearable. Maybe it’s the hovering help above us that makes the rough seas easier to take. Nope, the waves build and we are forced to duck into Burial Cove.

The anchor is dropped and we wait for the tide to turn. Anchored beside us in the cove is a one hundred and twenty-foot ship that has been re-constructed and is now used as a floating bunkhouse, possibly for a logging crew. The crews must be on leave in Campbell River, it’s pretty quiet on board from what we can see and can’t hear.

It’s high slack tide and again, we are running for Port Neville before the tide begins to turn. We will duck into the Government wharf, which has a reputation of being a rough place to dock with swirling currents and tides. The Coast Guard is back above us as we near Seymour Narrows. There is a barge in front of us, we debate about getting up close and letting it break the waves for us. Time is against us, we will have to fight our own battle with the wind and waves, we are only a few kilometres from the dock and the barge is on the other side of the straight. We wonder who the Coast Guard is looking for. We have not talked to family and friends in days; we hope it isn’t us they search for.

The dock is to our portside. It has huge big beams and it looks very well made. The current is swirling around the piles; this is going to be an exciting landing. I am on the bow trying to either lasso the piles or jump for it, sometimes being five foot tall is limiting. The current is determined to take us back out into the channel, I can hear a voice…. no it’s not the Coast Guard or god either. There is a petite lady standing on the dock yelling at me to throw her the rope. Thank you goddess, the rope is thrown and she secures the bow. The Captain brings in her stern and we are home free.

Lorna introduces herself as the second-generation homesteader, mail lady, entrepreneur, and keeper of the government docks. She is appreciated.

She invites us to come ashore to see her families homestead and also throws in an invitation for dinner. The sun is starting to set as we head up the gangway. An old two-storey building sits at the head of the dock walkway, we stroll towards it. The sun is just setting as we reach land…. maybe we did drown out there, this has to be heaven, or at the very least, this is the Garden of Eden.

The Captain and I both stand with mouths wide open in awe. We are at the gateway to her property. There are green rolling hills with lush emerald grass that’s been recently cut (this is November). Off to the right at the top of a green knoll is the most perfect little log cabin; lights twinkle in the lace-lined windows. Several apple trees are scattered through out the acreage that still have red apples clinging to branches.

Underneath the apple trees are deer, small ones and big ones, no shy ones. As they notice us they come to visit. Lorna states, ‘they are looking for apples’. She hands us a few apples that she has hidden in her pockets. The deer walk right up to us and nuzzle our sides looking for their supper. Apparently they will follow a person around all day begging for apples. This year’s fawn looks up with big, soft brown eyes; you know that you have to find just one more apple, somewhere.

The two-storey building is the old homestead that Lorna grew up in. Rough, hand-hewn timbers are silver with age; it is now an art shop for tourists in the summer. Her new home, which is the post office as well, sits just beyond the homestead. We amble towards her house with our deer entourage bumping at our hands and hips. They have become a nuisance and a pain, funny how quickly that can happen!

Lorna lives here by herself. The log cabin is uninhabited; I wasn’t sure why the lights were on, maybe it makes her feel like she has neighbours. She has a generator for power and keeps her marine radio on to listen to passing ships. Bears are curious about the noise that the generator creates or maybe it was simply the shortest route to the apples, she has bumped noses with the bears often.

We tell Lorna that our radio has been giving us grief forever, she proceeds to give us a brief but though lesson in marine radios. Se’curite, Se’curite, Se’curite…doesn’t that mean GOOD MORNING?? We have spent most of our cruising time in Alaska. Alaska doesn’t have lighthouses or live broadcasts, they are all computerized.

In Canada we still have lighthouses with real people in them. They can see a black line thundering across the water and call it in. I love those people. Se’curite translated by me means pay attention, Se’curite twice is smarten up and three times is get off the big water and head for cover, NOW.

Lorna confirmed this. Pay special attention when you get up at 6 a.m. and they are already calling Se’curite, se’curite, se’curite, the wind hasn’t even gotten out of bed yet, just wait. You are experiencing the remnants of last nights “blow” and the best is yet to come. On this trip EVERY morning we woke up to S.S.S, Lorna said she’d never seen a winter like it. I feel less like a wimp.

This strong woman is one of the many independent people that we have met on our travels. She talks of selling off sections of her homestead. Her daughter has left to get married in Powell River. I could tell that she missed her daughter terribly, I can relate to her. It was a feeling that I knew well, my son and daughter are miles away and there had been times that I was sure I would never see them again. It would be a lonely existence; loneliness being the worm in this breathe taking Garden of Eden. This winter of storms is taking its toll on all of us.

The next day we opt to take a detour, why would we want to simply take on Seymour Narrows when we can manoeuvre through four rapids instead? I am starting to figure out my Captain…when he says that “God hates a Coward thing”, it really means Se’curite, Se’curite, Se’curite

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 15

The Audrey Eleanor, in the calm after the storm.

THE SCREAMS OF THE FURIES

The Captain is asleep with his good hearing ear in the pillow…I can feel the weight of it as it as it gets closer, roaring like an old WhitePass steam engine determined to run us down.  The Audrey Eleanor is pulsating with the sound…

It has been a handful of years since the magnificent, giant, old growth cedars of Stanley Park in Vancouver, Canada are flattened to the earth. Hurricane winds ripped and tore their roots from the very land that sustained them.  As they thunder to the earth causing humankind to tremble, we are at anchor on an old wooden boat.

Fifty four feet and thirty tonnes of old wooden yacht must be held off of jagged rocks by a chain and a cast iron Danforth anchor in hurricane force winds.  Our anchor had been set earlier in the afternoon and should be stuck in the mud.  We hope so.

The Audrey Eleanor, a 1948 custom wooden yacht is anchored in Potts Lagoon located at the northern end of Vancouver Island.  We had slipped away from our berth at the Government dock on Malcolm Island, disappearing into the fog like a shadowy ghost ship. After days of pouring rain and windstorms we are making our weather break from Sointula on Malcolm Island our quest is to find a safe and semi-permanent Harbour on a more southern portion of Vancouver Island.  It is early morning, we are soon enveloped in a grizzly gray drizzle.

Steel coloured Ocean leaves no definition, no distinction against steely skies.  Flat silver water appears oily, we motor off into nothingness, I wonder if we will drop off the end of the world? There is no indication that a storm is brewing as we search for the slicing dorsal fins of killer whales.  A family pod has been sighted recently here and we are on high alert.  This is an area of rubbing beaches for the giant “Wolves of the Sea”.

A change in tide swings us slightly to one side.  H-m-m-m is it tidal currents or are the waves coming up?  A Sea Span tug is starboard to us; he is making a run to catch the slack tide at Seymour narrows.  Spray from the sea is beginning to break over his bow.  “She’s coming up,” states the Captain.  “We are going to look for shelter before it gets dark.”

We have no radio contact.  In Ketchikan, Alaska we replaced the antennae, in Port Hardy, B.C. we replaced the radio, our reward for this costly process is a static squawk.  Whomp, whomp, whomp, the Canadian Coast Guard is hovering overhead in a very large helicopter.  It’s nice to know that they are there, but we don’t want to give them a reason to stick around. Audrey’s bow points us toward our destination, Potts Lagoon on Cracroft Island. The Search and Rescue Helicopter swings off to Starboard side and disappears from sight. The anchor is to be set in the mud.

Our new neighbourhood is made up of several float houses, this may be a summer camp, we are not sure. The lagoon is not very large with signs of an old wharf at one end and has a beach type that indicates it is good crabbing territory.  There is still enough light to drop a few crab pots.  Gray skies darken slowly into black.  I feel that someone is watching us from the float houses.  My hair stands up on the back of my neck, I don’t like this sense of being ogled while sitting out in the blackening middle of nowhere.  We circle the float house intending to be neighborly, no one responds to our hellos.

Hurricane-force winds begin as a distant rumble, sounding very much like the old Whitepass train roaring down the tracks into the City of Whitehorse, Yukon.  I can feel the weight of it in my sleep.  Closer and closer it comes, I sit upright with a start wanting to stop this bad dream.  It continues, the weight is a heavy pressure in my inner ear; it pulses like a migraine in my temples.  This is no dream; it’s a goddamned nightmare! An entity has arrived and is attempting to bulldoze us over! The Furies are coming, The Furies are coming!

Audrey Eleanor is pulsating with the sound. My Captain is asleep in the saloon with his good hearing ear in the pillow.  I sleep with the hard of hearing Captain, drop the anchor when need be and I do the dishes damn it! I am the crew.  Captain Rick must be dreaming that his perfect Perkins diesels are vibrating us toward the Mexican border; regardless it is time to share this experience with him.

I waken him to the all-engulfing screams of the furies.  A hundred shrieking banshees are blasting us in their rage.  A wall of wind hits the Audrey Eleanor with mighty force.  Icy Fingers of wind become steel, they rip and tear at the canvas. Swung hard to starboard, the chain attached to the anchor stretches taut and jerks us hard about. We stumble and fall with the motion.

Monsoon rains pummel the saloon roof. Blasting rain resonates on the roof.  I feel that I am inside a tin can that is being pelleted with small rocks, the noise is deafening.  The Captain yells for the spotlight as he flashes into action, setting radar and depth sounders on high alert.  Wrestling the saloon door open he shines the spot light into the harbor, the light stops dead, a solid black wall of water greets him, we see nothing.

No visibility coupled with the deafening rain means we have no way of knowing whether we are dragging our anchor over the floor of the ocean. There is no sight; there is no sound except for the pelting rain. The alarm on the radar is set to go off if we get within 50 feet of a solid obstacle, but that would be too late.  If we are blown up on the rocks in this blackest of nights it could cost us our lives.

Our radar is particular as to what it will reveal.  I jump up to check the depth sounder repeatedly. We are maintaining a water level of 45 feet beneath our hull and it is low tide.  As the tide rises so will we.  So far so good, but there will be no sleep this night.

I get a whiff of wood smoke.  My god!  Now what, we are on a wooden boat, are we on a wooden boat that is on fire?  Huge tanks of diesel contained in our hull would set up a blaze for all the world to see.  A frantic survey reveals that we are not about to be cremated. For sure someone is living on the float houses and doesn’t want to be seen.  The fury of the night compels them to light a fire or freeze. Our silent neighbour has started a wood fire in one of the float houses.  I knew I could feel eyes on us, this is creepy, I want to go home.

In true Yukon tradition we settle into a long night of cribbage.  Yelling at each other at the top of our lungs we attempt to out last the storm, 15/4, 15/6…and listening for things that go” bump” in the night under the Audrey Eleanor.

P.S.  Later we found the force of the jerk on the chain to the anchor caused the cast iron stanchion to bend.  You can see it still should you decide to visit. And so the journey resumes, join us soon for another; ADVENTURE OF THE AUDREY ELEANOR.