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.

Depth-of-Field, Your Creative Tool

Depth-of-Field – Your Creative Tool

The creative use of Depth-of-Field (DOF) has been a journey of discovery, wonder and artistic joy for me my entire photographic career.

Even now, after many years of working with film, then digital cameras, it never ceases to amaze me what a huge difference the choice of how to use this technique makes to a photograph.

Learning to use DOF creatively to generate artistic impressions of the scenes and subjects you deal with is one of the most exciting discoveries you will have in photography.

Extreme Depth-of-Field example
Extreme Depth-of-Field example

Depth-of-Field is described as the distance within which everything is in focus. Think of having everything from 2 metres away to 10 metres away in focus, and nothing else; those 8 metres are the depth-of-field.

DOF is dependent on the aperture, focal length of your lens, distance the camera is from the subject and distance between the subject and the background.

Aperture, the opening in the lens, is measured in f/stops; the smaller the aperture, the larger the f/stop is numbered. For example, f/22 is a very small opening while f/2.8 has the lens almost completely opened.

Lenses with shorter focal lengths allow for a greater DOF than do longer focal lengths; the reason landscape photographers use wide angle lenses and hyperfocal distance in their work. This way they get the detail in the foreground in focus as well as the trees and hills in the background.

Hyperfocal distance is the closest distance you can be focus and still keep objects at infinity in acceptable sharpness. It changes with different f/stops.

Set your digital camera on aperture priority or use it in manual mode to gain control of the f/stop.

Using small apertures cuts the amount of light travelling through the lens and creates a need for longer shutter speeds.

Use your tripod.

Shallow Depth-of-Field example
Shallow Depth-of-Field example

Let’s take a look at the opposite end of the DOF spectrum; having a very short distance in focus. Portraiture is one photographic style where this comes into play often.

The closer your subject is to you and the further away the background is from your subject, the easier it is to have your subject in sharp focus while allowing the background to go out of focus.

Shallow DOF can create an image where the beautiful face of your child is in sharp focus while the background is blurry. This effect makes the portrait stand out from everything else.

Wide angle lenses are not usually used for portraiture as you have to get in very close to your subject causing facial distortion, and even wide open they still have quite a wide DOF.

Focal lengths of 50 to 85 are the norm for portraiture, allowing some distance between you and your subject and providing the capacity for a minimal DOF so you can create that wonderful bokeh – the blurry out of focus area of your photo.

The quality of the bokeh differs with each lens, lighting situation and any sharp highlights that may be in the background.

The more blades a lens has to control aperture, the better the bokeh. Their shape and the opening they create also impact on how it is displayed.

Lenses with large apertures allow for the shortest DOF so can be very versatile in doing close-up work. The wider the f/stop, the easier to separate the background from the item you want enhanced.

Longer lenses offer an opportunity to create a portrait while you are still some distance away from your subject. They may, however, cause some distortion.

However, long lenses are useful in photographing sports.

We’ve all seen the images of a football player making the great catch and it seems he is the only thing in the photo as the crowd and all the other players have been lost in the blurry background.

This is created with a very long lens and large aperture.

Take this information to use your digital camera to its utmost by experimenting with the creative use of depth-of-field. You won’t be disappointed.

If you have comments or questions post them in the comment section below.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy shooting and remember to leave the environment as you found it.

Norm Hamilton
normhamilton.ca/photography
norm@normhamilton.ca

Yukon Eighth Grader Published Her Second Book And Writing Many More

Ursula and Rachel Westfall with their newest book

Ursula Westfall is a Yukon 8th grade student with a very bright future ahead. She’s co-written two books with her mother Rachel Westfall and has plans for many more.

The Westfall ladies are a Whitehorse-based daughter-and-mother team. They’ve successfully collaborated on their second published work, which is the book, A Trail of Dreams. This work was published in autumn of 2015. Before they wrote A Trail of Dreams, this team published their first book, which is titled, Estella of Halftree Village.

Rachel Westfall has a Ph.D. in Ethnobotany from the University of Victoria in B.C. and her daughter, Ursula Westfall, is a student in the city of Whitehorse. Rachel now works with the Yukon government as a senior statistician.

I met young Ursula and her mother, Rachel, in Whitehorse’s Starbucks coffee shop during the month of December 2015 for a conversation about their newest book.

Rachel introduced the book by giving a quick and fascinating summary, which actually included information about both published novels:

“The main characters in both of these stories are the residents of a village which is an intentional community living in the wilderness. They’re people who have rejected modern society, which in the story is quite dysfunctional. It’s a bit of a dystopia. And, in A Trail of Dreams, one of the residents of the village starts having dreams that something terrible is going to happen to the village and she thinks that it’s coming from the direction of the city, but she can’t figure out what it is.

So, she goes on a journey to try to figure out what the threat is and whether she can do anything about it. So she gets to the city and meets a bunch of very strange characters, finds out what the threat is, but she can’t actually do anything about it. So she has to go back to the village and in the village there’s been some drama going on involving a Sasquatch who has befriended some of the villagers. But other villagers don’t know the Sasquatch exists. So there’s some funny scenes there. And then a solution comes their way.

So both stories have that tension between nature and city life, there’s that tension that really sets the stage for the stories.”

Rachel and Ursula’s second book is a stand-alone story as well, so if you haven’t read the first book, the second book will still makes sense. However, the same characters appear in both novels and they also share the same setting. So, this new story is interconnected with the last tale, but it’s still an independent story.

Rachel told that they did most of the writing over a period of about a year, off and on, after they published the first book in 2014. They got the second book published in the fall of 2015 through the publisher, Createspace. This book is also available at Amazon and in hardcover as well.

“Finishing one story, we were inspired with ideas for the next story,” Rachel mentioned that she and her daughter were inspired by the first book. “And it’s the same with the third story that we’re working on now. As soon as we finished the second story, we got inspired to write another one. And you get a lot of energy from finishing a project. And it gave us— I guess we felt encouraged that we could write more.”

“I usually write every evening in my free time, like I set aside some time for writing,” remarked the accomplished Ursula, after she was asked to explain how she balances school work and writing. She said she wrote non-stop, even on Saturday and Sundays, and, to date, she has written a lot of fantasy tales. The subjects of Ursula’s fantasy writings are things like dragons, with a lot of complex lore. She creates the lore and creatures and realms and loves creating fantasy stories which may be classified as “dragon fantasy”.

Ursula said that they were planning to make three books in the series and they would complete the whole story in the third book. They are expecting to complete their third book in the fall of 2016.

The Cover of Ursula and Rachel Westfall ‘s Book
The Cover of Ursula and Rachel Westfall ‘s Book

On the question of next projects after the third book is written, Rachel said that her daughter Ursula has got a number of novels that she’s working on right now and some short stories as well:

“If we decide to do another collaborative project, that would be great, too, but right now we’re just trying to get the third book…that’s what we’re focusing on right now, is the third book in the Halftree Village series. And then we’ll see after that.”

Rachel is originally from Victoria BC and grew up in Quesnel, in central B.C. She has lived in Vancouver and Victoria and she moved to Whitehorse ten years ago. So, Ursula’s really grown up in Whitehorse.

Rachel said she also had a passion for writing since childhood. However, most of the writing she did as an adult has been technical writing, which is a more academic type of writing. In addition, she wrote quite a lot of poetry as well. However, writing fiction is fairly new for her:

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. And Ursula’s really opened that door for me because of her passion for fiction.”

On the question of challenges of collaborating with immediate family, Rachel said that they teamed up really well, “I think if we didn’t we would not have been able to finish these books. There’s no way we could have if we were arguing about what was going to happen or how we were going to write it. It wouldn’t have worked.”

Equally excited, Ursula concluded, “We urge each other on.”

Rachel further elaborated how her family is working as a team to make writing a family affair. She told me that her son is also involved, as a proofreader.

“Where he’s involved is we bounce off a lot of ideas off of him. He helped proofread the new book. We all read it out loud together as our bedtime story over a period of a few evenings and he helped to go through that process and we cleaned up a lot of things that didn’t make sense at that time.”

On the question of hobbies other than writing, Ursula said, “When I am not writing I am usually playing music or reading. I also play the piano and the flute.”

“When I am not writing, I am busy raising my new baby,” Rachel added. “I like gardening, silversmithing, music. I also play the piano and things like that. I have more interests than I have time for. Right now I’m focusing on the writing.”

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 14

Rain and fog, rain and fog, a soggy Captain heads out to check crab traps early in the morning before the winds come up to rage and blow the channel clear.

Follow The North Star

…she attempted to tie herself to a wall in the rolling galley.

The thought of leaving Shearwater by sea is too traumatic.  If I am jumping ship this is my last chance to do so.

Shearwater is located on Denny Island across the water from Bella Bella, a native seaside community located on the coast of B.C., Canada.   My escape vehicle could be B.C. Ferries, which makes a scheduled stop at Bella Bella.   Or I could jump into a small floatplane and fly into Port Hardy on Vancouver Island. I would be safe and have to live with the fact that I deserted my ship and my Captain.   I am still considering it.

An eighty-foot tug registered out of Juneau, Alaska has been our phantom companion since we left Prince Rupert more than a week ago.  As they vaporize in the fog, so do our communications with them on our none too stable radio.  They are a ghost ship that offers the small condolence of “someone else is out here.”

With the surge of storms we have seen little life moving on the raging seas.  Tucking into Oliver’s Cove we wait for our chance to make a break into Sea forth Channel and run for Shearwater and civilization. B.C. Ferries have quit running and the tugs are hiding out with their bows stuck in bights, the storms of November are early. Days later we made the break for Shearwater.

The big Juneau tug follows us into Shearwater.  Waiting at the payphone for a chance to call my kids before we take on our next big crossing, Queen Charlotte Strait, I notice the Tugboat Captains wife is ahead of me; there is little privacy in the area surrounding the payphone.

It is wrenches my heart listening to her talking to children and grandchildren in the southern U.S.  Trying to keep tears under control she bids them a final farewell. She is certain that once back onboard the Tug she is motoring to her death.  Crying softly she hangs up the phone and attempts to quiet her sobs, she passes me with head hung low.  Such bravery in such a diminutive woman, would you climb on board a vessel that you were positive was carrying you to your grave?  My mind is reeling, how often does that float plane leave for the outside world?

During their previous crossing of Queen Charlotte Sound, the Juneau Tug struggled with gigantic waves cresting on top of 20’ swells.  The Captains wife attempted to tie herself to the wall in the galley to prevent battery of herself within that confined and dangerous area.  A rogue wave presents itself on already colossal rollers and nails them directly on the beam.  The impact causes the commercial-sized fridge/freezer to slam to the floor and wedge up against the door.  Her access to the outside world is cut off until a crewmember can think to look for her.

She is beaten around in the galley for four hours before any of the crew can leave their posts to recue her.  No windows and no escape; she is in her coffin on a roller coaster ride in the black.  When the tug arrives at Campbell River she is treated for minor injuries and major physiological trauma.  She is about to face her demons again, in this winter of storms.

What I had not realized was that this crossing of Queen Charlotte Strait was Captain Ricks nemeses as well.  We had survived Dixon Entrance and were alive if badly shaken after the threat of being ground into the rocky bottom of a shallow sea in Milbanke Sound, and how about grabbing a wave that lifted us over ragged rocks by Ivory Island.  Wasn’t that enough, haven’t the dues been paid?  There is no mercy in the sea, no such thing as having paid enough dues.

I had lost feeling in my arms after the terrifying encounter with Milbanke Sound; this leaves me with another concern.  This is the point that I refuse to get back on the boat.

I am the only crew; it’s the two of us against this literal craziness.  My arms are working again, but I am afraid that I could possibly have a stroke or a heart attack if we get pummeled again.  The Captain is an amazing guy.  If I did have any of the above he would have to deal with three temperamental ladies: me, Mother Nature and Audrey Eleanor.  I know that if I am having a heart attack or stroke it isn’t because it is a calm sunny day.  Even he is not that good.  My concern is that I could end up being more trouble than is worth the risk.

Coming up Seaforth Channel my hands had been shaking so uncontrollably that I cannot hold on to anything to stabilize myself.  I suggest that he call one of the boys and have them come to replace me as the crew

There is wisdom in drinking too much beer.  Shearwater was having its Halloween party this night.  The Captain insists that we go ashore, this would be a great opportunity to relax, engage in conversation with people other than ourselves and swill beer.

Such a great time!  People here are glad to have someone new to talk to as well.  The night carries on into the dawn.  Everyone is swept up in an alcoholic haze; we will be best friends forever and all of that wonderful stuff.

The next morning I am praying for a swift death.  That man has his moments, he knows I get sick as a dog and hope for death after a night of great social activity…I am back on board the Audrey Eleanor, listing in my bunk with a major hang over and en-route to Queen Charlotte Sound.

This is the time to take on the Sound and the Strait.  I watch the moons, the barometer, hold my mouth just right and sniff the salty breeze.  I will walk on water to avoid crossing a Strait or a Sound at tide change, not at slack but at the change.  I believe if there is an opportunity for a rough crossing this is when it will happen.  Our famous crossing of Dixon Entrance sickens me to this day.  At this moment if I think about that crossing and close my eyes, I am falling out of the saloon door and into the trough of the wild seas.  There are times when you have no choice in the matter, but the tides are in our favour for the next two days.

In order to time our crossing perfectly we are anchoring at Hecate Island tonight and then running for the safety of Vancouver Island early tomorrow morning.  Goldstream Harbour on Hecate Island is our destination.  It is a difficult passage to distinguish and tricky to navigate.   With a narrow and rock strewn entrance to the inside, we swing up and in on the crest of a building sea.

An eighty-pound hook is dropped and we settle in for the night.  A full moon strikes a mirrored path on the calm waters of the Harbour, the stars; I can tickle their bellies.  Standing on the flying bridge I hear the thunder of monster waves crashing against the small natural breakwater, which creates this bay.  White froth and foam of cresting waves shimmer and are accentuated in the full moon; tons of water smash against the little wall yet again.  I am feeling very unsure that this damned big ocean is going to stay on its own side of the Island.

Huge rocks, crowned with old growth trees, stunted and malformed assure me that they have managed to hang on by twisted and gnarled roots for decades.  I look back at the surreal calm in the anchorage and there in all of its solitary glory sparkles the reflection of the Big Dipper with the gleam of the North Star.  None of the other stars are apparent to me, but in crystal clear view is the Big Dipper.  I am thinking, this is a sign, we need to turn around and run as fast as we can to the Yukon, we should not do this crossing.

First pale and pink light creeps across Goldstream Harbour as we prepare to weigh anchor.  I hand crank the 80 pound anchor and 200 feet of rope and chain that make up our rode.  I cannot haul the anchor up past the 40-foot mark, this is our water depth, the anchor is sitting on the bottom refusing to leave.   I finally yell at the Captain that if he thinks that he can do better, he should.

When the Captain manages to pull the anchor free of the seabed, we see that a huge boulder has lodged itself on the anchor flutes. My active mind is whirling, another sign, my god we need to turn back, I don’t want to do this crossing.  Yeah well, “god hates a coward,” and we leave our little haven and turn to starboard.

Securite’, securite’ breaks up on the radio weather channel…we know this chant by heart.  Swells are beginning to build as we nose our bow out into Queen Charlotte Strait and beyond Cape Caution.  We now have to run as far and as fast as our eight knots per hour will carry us toward Gods Pocket, there is no turning back.

Swells are building and carrying us towards Vancouver Island.  Audrey climbs the walls of water and we coast 12 feet down into the trough and up we go again.  Very pleasant, if only I could relax and enjoy it.  A black line on the horizon signifies that a storm is moving in; god let us be off of the wide-open ocean by then. Up we go and down we glide, we are on a gigantic powered surfboard.  I can see Vancouver Island!   This is the warm and gentle south; this is where we want to spend the winter aboard the Audrey Eleanor.  This is safety.  It doesn’t matter that nirvana is still miles away, having the visual no matter how deceptive the concept of safety is, is wonderful.

Up and down, up and down, closer and closer we get.  We are at God’s Pocket (fantastic diving) and the seas are such that we are going to continue on to Port Hardy.  There is nothing physically wrong with my heart when Mother Nature is not terrorizing me. We are almost there!

P.S. we never saw the tug from Juneau Alaska again.  Knowing their cruising speed and with the size of the waves that we watched from the security of Goldstream Harbour I can only assume that they had another extreme crossing of Queen Charlotte Strait.  Once the Captains wife gets to her home in the southern part of the U.S., I truly wish that she never had to make that crossing again.  This storey is for Willie Olson.  Join us again for another ADVENTURE OF THE AUDREY ELEANOR.