Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The crown jewel - Prince Rupert - end of the line

We've been able to take in some of the sights in Prince Rupert, BC. The first thing you see is these huge container cranes and the coal and grain transfer facilities, so you think you've entered Commerce City. But a few houses start to show up, then a huge sign shouts "Shopping Mall" at you, and you spot a Safeway, and you know life is good.

Pretty much the biggest town this side of the province, the C&N Railroad ends (or begins) here and extends to Memphis Tennesee, and used to be a bigger deal when logging, mining, and fishing were going at an unregulated pace. Now the big ships in the harbor are flagged Dubai and Singapore.

They've put some effort into recent improvements around the waterfront, and the seafarer's memorial park.

We're at the Prince Rupert Rowing and Yacht Club - which sounds a whole lot more glamorous than it is. I assure you we haven't attended many black tie affairs since docking.
Chance found his casino, and marked it as his territory. The RR depot is interesting, and Chance has been enjoying grass again.
And we found the Sunken Garden Park. Kind of a mini Butchart Gardens on a thumbtack. But it's nice and you can see there's a ton of volunteer work in these plantings.
The most poignant memorial is the Kazu Maru. A small fishing boat, discovered overturned in 1987 and pulled just in time from the breaking shore that turned out to be japanese.
The story goes that a retired japanese civil servant went out for a day of fishing and never returned. The tough little boat followed the Pacific currents here for 18 months.
The city restored here and held a memorial dedication in 1989 where invited guests included the widow of the fisherman. With her blessing, Prince Rupert built this memorial gazebo to house the wonderful little boat.
Delightfully, with one foot still in the 70s, Prince Rupert still has a drive-in diner. Though it looks to be an Italian place.  We're happily enjoying a little local fishmonger called Dolly's. With live Dungeness crabs and a mighty tasty "cheese crab Denver on a kaiser" and black cod. We'll post the menu.

We called into the US Coasties and plan to be back in Alaska June 4-5. Blain is drooling over his last bottle of 2008 Alaska Smoked Porter and dreams of quashing it in US soil. Somebody, pinch us. It's actually not even summer yet.

Sketchy Repair Jobs R Us

So here's the repair we were doing in Prince Rupert. Much to our dismay we noticed a shroud chainplate was pulling up on the deck after a day of sailing. This sucks. There were cracks in the gelcoat and water must have gotten in to rot out the core with the freeze/thaw this winter. So we pulled out the books and got to work. First you have to drill holes to allow you to pour in acetone to remove the moisture. This is scary. So you screw up you courage and do it.
Then you mix the epoxy with some magic structural dust and squeeze it in the holes.
Then after flinging curing epoxy everywhere and cleaning it up, "borrow" some heavy steel brackets from the harbor docks and add your own crab pot weights to weigh it all down over wax paper, which you have to buy a whole roll of. It seems like every repair goes through an industry standard 1/2 roll of paper towels and several items that you need 1/100th of the smallest quantity you can buy in the store.
Then you fill the holes with a quick cure epoxy to ensure they don't collect water.
And then you step back and say "G*d d#%m, that's really friggin ugly". And you start looking for fiberglass specialists in the phone book. You find one and immediately chart your course to their town.
Tie the shroud to a cleat and life rail plate, and hope for the best in the forcast 30 knot winds.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hartley Bay - the Boardwalk city, and an engine milestone

We moored in Hartley Bay - a fairly new native settlement at the entrance to Grenville Channel. The entire town is connected by wooden boardwalks, and there's not one car or truck in town. A few ATVs and electric golf carts serve all the transportation needs. We couldn't think of a better layout for a small town on the water with ample lumber. They had built a nice boardwalk up the river a few miles for access to the lake, and we enjoyed the excercise. Having a dog on a leash in town was a real novelty.
The kids were actual real kids, too. We loved that this guy had found himself a raft/large pallet and was paddling it around the marina with a shovel.
Psst... Don't tell these kids about television or XBoxes. Here they managed to fit three aboard. And only the girls were tough enough to swim in the 57F water.

The morning's have been foggy, but the sun lifts it to reveal the world.

One particularly nice hike we did the morning before Prince Rupert made us homesick for the open meadows and muskeg of Prince William Sound. Many of the flowers and plants were the same, but Blain was thrilled to find rough-skinned newt eggs (correction- these are likely not newt eggs, but northwestern salameader's)  in the little ponds. Mo, with here sharp eye for slimy things spotted a live adult, but it buried itself in the mud bottom before we could snap it's photo.

These are the egg masses, glowing like little fairy marbles.
Tiny bog laurel with big flowers.
And the view from on high felt great. Blain is hiking a bit more, and can enjoy the bushwacking again.

The little engine that could, just keeps on doing it. We rolled over 4000 hours. A milestone and we hope it'll just keep chugging for another thousand or more before a rebuilt or replacement.

Unfortunately, other parts are also getting older. We noticed a mast shroud was loose after a good day's sailing, and saw that the chainplate had lifted the deck. Not so good. We dug in and found that water had entered the deck and the chainplate was actually only deck mounted, not bolted to a bulkhead. This allowed water in and it has rotted out some of the surrounding balsa wood coring. We will have to cut it out and fill it with epoxy, not to mention back up the other deck chainplates with backing plates. Prince Rupert to the rescue, we hope. It's frustrating to not be able to sail. This photo shows one good chainplate mounted correctly, but there should be another in the picture that's missing.

Sometime shortly after this discovery, Blain invented a new cocktail.

He calls it a Tequila Restorer. One part reposado tequila, two parts water, squeeze of lemon, a tablespoon of agave nectar (available in stores), and one chilipepper. Serve on a nice day in the sun with a waterfall for background music.

The troubles with fjords

The Fiordland area has been more or less set aside from logging, and many of the rivers still seem intact. At Culpepper Lagoon, we paddled up the river at high tide and explored a bit.

Most of the anchorages in this area are exceedingly tight tidal bottlenecks and we ripped through one lagoon entrance at 10.1 knots in Oystercatcher).  Notice the relief on Blain's face after navigating these rapids.

Our charts have been less than helpful in places, but the cruising guides have filled in the slack. Thanks goodness for radar and GPS, though. One crossing out of the Grenville Channel was completely fogbound and we couldn't see 100 yards. The reefs and rocks showed up clearly on both gadgets, and we were relieved to have the extra "eyes". Many of theses areas still have not been mapped. Too remote and too little economic possibility, we suppose. And that's good too. It's all good.

Timing is everything and we've had to hover a few times to wait for the current to slack. One called Kent Harbor was a granite boulder-strewn maze. But we were too busy watching the sides and shallow rock ledges underneath the keel to get any photos.

Crabbing has been good, as has the shrimping, but we're out of those tastey little shrimp baits that Chance goes gaga for. Delicious crab omelettes and sushi. And fresh Dungeness crab croquettes - nothing like it. We decided we will be writing up some of our favorite recipes for folks. Or at least for us later.


Laredo Inlet. See it. It's on Princess Royal Island and is still gorgeous and untrammeled.

We listened to a wolf howl through the night and enjoyed the remoteness. We'll work to get it the video uploaded.

Finally, we found a yew. A western yew tree taxus brevifolia. These slow growing beautiful forest denizens are highly prized for their strong flexible wood - think English longbows and other strong bendy things. They have wonderful medicinal properties and a promising anti-cancer drug is found in their bark. However, there is some concern they might be too highly prized for their own good. Anyway, we were glad to find a few happily growing on a slope amongst their old-growth brethern (or sisteren - they are either one or the other -i.e. dioecious).

After Prince Rupert, it's on to Ketchikan and ALASKA!!!

The upper coast of BC. Yah gotta be here.

We sit in a rolly Prince Rupert Royal Yacht Club docks, tied to the world for a while. A repair again. Gotta love the sailing life. But we're also enjoying the city life again. Cars are a real novelty, as are french fries.

It's been a while. In the last month, we've been watching out for the cruising kitty, so haven't stayed in any marinas since Dawson's Landing. So we're a little unsocialized.

We covered hundreds of miles through Fiordland Provincial Rec Area, soaked in a couple of hot springs, and learned a few cooking skills. We just watched our engine turn over to 4000 hours, so we're definately motoring much more than sailing in these inside passages. On the flip side, we've been better at going with the tidal currrents to get a push and save diesel.

During the last new moon, the tides were big, and we did a lot of poking around at low tides. We've found some remarkable creatures. Here, let us introduce some of them.

This nudibranch was our first we'd ever seen. We had no idea they were so big. About the size and texture of those big orange-slice gummy candies. But a whole lot more charismatic...

 Some others were the hairy chiton (yes that's seaweed growing on it) and the bat star. The latter smells like sulphur and was in the shrimp trap.
Another visitor included this young dishevelled Brewer's black bird in a foggy rain storm.


On to the hot springs. Life is good soaking in the rain or sun in hot water on a rocky shore. It's really crazy how apey humans get over finding water slightly warmer than body temperature and sitting in it. But why fight it. Our first stop was Bishop's Bay where you can tie to another boat at the dock. This was great.

We rafted to a very reluctant Bayliner from Terrace, BC who admitted they we're worried about it. We decided we were probably their worst rafting nightmare. A sailboat even, and of course, did we say we have a dog?

The boat owner got out his wash broom right after we walked across his back deck the first time. We noticed he gave up after a few more shore trips by us. They also admitted that they usually don't come to this hot springs because they are sooo busy. There were a TOTAL of 5 boats. And they pointed out that three were American. American! Can you believe it?! I soothed his troubled mind by explaining that we weren't here to just take all the fish, but we Americans were also making plans to turn the hot springs into money-making resort ventures. Oh, and to steal all the women.
Boats and boaters have been stopping and writing their names on the walls and leaving carvings in the rafters. We decorated a japanese float we'd found and hung it on the ceiling.

Somebody had set a campfire on the boardwalk or other such stupid thing, so there was a section burned to a crisp and cobbled together. We hope it is rebuilt soon.
After this we motored up to Europa Bay Hot Springs. More remote and mooring bouys to tie up to, we shared this wonderful place with two fishing boats. One boat had his son fly out in his float plane so he could get the newspaper and sports scores.
We thoroughly enjoyed the soaks. Though once again the view was marred by old clearcuts. You'd think the Canadian government would have set aside some land around the hot springs from logging. But I'm sure they have little control over them from the conversations we've had with their contrymen. I can imagine the loggers were just as excited as us to soak off the grime and probably kept them a secret if they could.

Our first real Japanese culinary masterpiece was shrimp sushi here. We made it with 21 of the biggest spot prawns we've caught so far. The processing was a lot of fun. Skewer, boil, cool, unskewer, peel, butterfly cut, make a nigiri (vinegered rice bottom layer) and press it together. Artfully arrange (we need more work on this part, but by this time, we were really hungry), and enjoy with wasabi, pickled ginger, and soy sauce.

If you aren't hungry yet, maybe the tofu paneer cheese and veggie shish kabobs will get you.