Rescuing some Texans

June 15, 2008

Five Finger Cove (near Rivers Inlet, B.C.)

N 51 29' 092", W 127 39' 923" 

Dear friends and family, 

We left Port McNeill yesterday morning, having replenished our supply of fresh fruits, vegetables, and fuel.  It rained a lot in Port McNeill, and we talked with other boaters about strategies for rounding Cape Caution, the point of the mainland which is even with the top end of Vancouver Island.  Many of the people we meet have come here every summer for years and years -- they know all the good harbors and routes.  We also have the very comprehensive Douglass cruising guide with photos, mini charts, and plenty of advice about which harbor is more beautiful than the next. 

This area of the coast is subject to ocean swells -- it is the part of the "Inland Passage" which isn't so "inland."  So although there wasn't too much wind approaching Cape Caution, there were lots of swells, sometimes confused by wakes of passing ships (plenty of those) or strong tidal currents (plenty of those, too.)  The wave motion was fairly uncomfortable, until we were able to change course enough to raise the sails.  Sailing is such a pleasant relief after motoring (bashing) through unfriendly waves. 

We had gotten advice, and confirmed with the Douglass guide, that Miles Inlet was a good place to stop before rounding Cape Caution.  It has room for only 3-4 boats, so we were apprehensive that we'd find the place packed out.  But as it turned out we were the only boat there last night.  A narrow channel leads off the open ocean, through wind-sculpted cedar trees and silvery snags.  Finally, the channel branches to the left and right.  The wind is gone, the sun is shining, and it's very isolated and primeval.  We even thought it was warm enough to take showers on the back step (South Pacific style), although that breeze, when it comes through, is sure cold!  At the end of our branch of the inlet, there is a tidal stream -- just a riffle at high tide, but as the tide lowers, it increases to rapids, and then at low tide, it's a six-foot waterfall with foam at the bottom.  Too bad we didn't have the dinghy out so we could explore! 

Above: Miles Inlet, as shown on our plotter.  Below left: calm reflection of early morning; below right: the tidal waterfalls at the end of our anchorage.

This morning Craig woke at 6:30 a.m., declared that there was no wind, and that we should get underway around Cape Caution.  So we headed out that lovely, narrow channel, into the shipping lanes.  Two tugs were right there, one towing a huge barge, and the BC ferry soon approached.  There were more of those confused seas, and finally, after rounding Cape Caution, we were able to sail again.  Our intention was to go into a cove called "Five Window Cove" near Penrose Island. 

As we were nearing that spot, we were hailed by a couple in an aluminum dinghy.  Bryon and Brandee had an outboard which had decided to quit, and were asking for a tow.  After some discussion, we decided to take them to Five Window Cove, where we could anchor, and they could work on the engine for a bit.  They weren't able to get it started, so we inflated our dinghy, mounted the outboard, and towed them the mile or so further to their boat.  They've been coming to this area for years, so they have all the yearned-for "local knowledge." 

They directed us through a seeming labyrinth of small channels (some impassable for anything bigger than a dinghy) to their boat, the San Simone.  Along the way we saw a black bear, mother and cub, on the shore -- not more than 30 feet away.  (Our first bear sighting -- probably many more to come).  Bryon and Brandee invited us aboard for crab curry (how could we turn that down?) 

Bryon had a very interesting background, having worked in the oil industry in many parts of the world.  The curry he served was West African (he worked in Nigeria for three years) (although I'm almost certain they don't put Dungeness crab in their curry in Nigeria...) He had also lived in Brazil, Iran, Indonesia (among other places), and currently, Texas.  One of the joys of cruising is meeting people you'd never meet in your ordinary life, and this was certainly one example of that.  We'd describe Bryon and Brandee as extremely conservative, and they'd probably describe us as extremely liberal.  The political conversations flowed, and I think we each learned something from the other.  They were extremely grateful for the tow, and we had a wonderful dinner and extremely interesting conversations. 

Bryon and Brandee said they are on their honeymoon, having married 7 weeks ago.  We, on the other hand, are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary today.  We had planned a private celebration, perhaps with a cake...  As it turns out, we did something entirely different, but life would be pretty dull if you couldn't take advantage of unexpected turns of events.  We'll have our private celebration later in the trip -- perhaps dinner at some nice resort?

Best wishes to all!

Craig & Barbara Johnston

S/V Sequoia

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