Tuesday, 18 September 2018

On our way to Port Hardy

The focus of this trip was to visit Haida Gwaii once again after 24 years, and also to bring our friend Nancy along with what had promised to be a most amazing time.
We have now been able to accomplish this ... our visits to the various sites were truly memorable. We enjoyed every one of the Watchmen and the animals we encountered, and we were also gifted with nearly perfect weather. Even on the one night when we had to leave our anchored spot near Queen Charlotte Village, we actually got to motor close (but not TOO close) to what we later learned was a large tourist hotel. It had 'slipped its moorings' and was proceeding - seemingly unsupervised - to an unstable resting spot on an island very near QC Village. It must have found its way in much the same fashion that those tiny pelagic jellyfish I see make their way - being driven by the currents.

We only found out what had happened a few days later when a announcement on the ship's radio advised all boat traffic to stay a safe distance away. There were issues - such as explosions (they must have been using propane for cooking) or hazardous materials involved. We HAD noticed on the Monday that we returned to QCV that the Oil Recovery vessel we had seen in Prince Rupert and several fast RIB-loads of workers were in evidence around the village.

Now we will have rather ugly weather for a few days. We are expecting to motor for 8 hours a day so we can get to Port Hardy on Thursday, when Nancy will be leaving to go back to Ottawa.

So farewell for now - we hope you have enjoyed our latest blog entries.

Monday, 17 September 2018

A Great Time had by All



Courtney and Tristan
Yesterday we finished our 18-hour crossing over from Rose Harbour by finishing up in Quigley Cove. We were greeted by Courtney on the deck of her boat ‘Great Blue Heron’ which was rafted alongside Matt and Joss’s boat ‘Nancy Blackett’. Courtney is a geographer by discipline, but is largely interested in all the marine and animal aspects of this Wilderness. She offered to come with us on a dinghy trip to see if we could find any of the wolves she had heard very early in the morning. However, we were anxious to relax after the long trip and invited all 4 young people aboard Traversay III for dinner once they had finished work. 


Quigley Cove is an offshoot from Laredo Inlet. This is where our friends Matt and Joss and Courtney’s boyfriend Tristan are currently working on a dive Survey of the Sea Cucumber population. The survey is principally sponsored by the Nation here in nearby Clemtu (this is who is paying them) centred in Klemtu but it has the nominal support of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. All these young people have been well-schooled by their studies at the University of Victoria – and this is where we met when Nancy Blackett shared a dock in front of the Empress in Victoria four years ago.

Jocelyn. Matt, Nancy and Larry
The various First Nations in this part of BC (including the Haida over on Haida Gwaii)  had the foresight to undertake these studies more than twenty years ago … and so far Matt and Joss have worked on several species and we heard about this one and one which i geoduck clams (panopea abrupta). The ‘kids’ arrived with some amazing fresh scallops and two varied sauces. Even Larry ate them fresh, sliced and uncooked  – he who normally eschews any raw meat. Our conversation was animated by Joss’s description of their collecting procedure … she has a huge bag into which she stuffs all the sea cucumbers she can find – the mesh bag (weightless underwater) drags her to a stop when it catches on a tiny orange cup coral. By the time she tries to surface it ‘gains weight’ losing the buoyancy of the water and it can be 320 lbs!

 Both sea cucumbers and geoducks are staples of the diet here for West Coast Nations. Her descriptions of trying to cook and enjoy sea cucumbers (which seemed to turn into a sludgy unappetizing mass) and the way they vacuum up the geoduck clams (who have long fleshy siphons with foreskin-like outer coverings) were both graphic and hilarious.

These incredibly well-trained young professionals are even more discouraged about the state of the world than we are. Tristan – an ichthyologist or  ‘fish geek’ as Courtney calls him – described the awful destruction and havoc caused in Chile’s marine environment where Norwegian companies (having been shut down in their own country by increasing public knowledge and concern) emigrated to Chile (and Canada) - buying the cheapest and most dangerous forms of technology and causing further damage.

If you read our blog further back (while we were diving in Patagonia) you would read that the salmon industry in Chile had to be shut down some years ago due to fish disease. You would also have read that all the shellfish populations have been shut to collectors and fishermen by Red Tide.  You will also note that the only coastal fishing industry has switched to collecting the lovely ‘Centolla’ crab and these animals were much smaller than those we saw 10 years ago, and vast numbers seem to be sent off to Europe and North America. There seemed to be no regulation of the crab-pots (were they emptied at the end of the season, was there even a Season?) and there was no attempt to clean up the leftover mess from the Salmoneras. We saw waves of These problems are also besetting Canada’s coastlines. The Haida are among the only public body which are active in trying to stop the destruction. If you read this, look up the *MLSS* and join it – for a small amount you can be part of the attempt by people who really know about what is going on here.

In addition to airing their educated views about the state of the environment, we also managed to have a GREAT load of fun. It all started when – questioned by me about dietary concerns – Matt responded by saying “We are all vegans who drink only pure water!” He knows about my despair trying to entertain people who each have 3 or 4 DIFFERENT food prohibitions. It turned out that they now eat everything – even if at one time they did have vegetarian leanings. Being out in this wilderness with limited opportunities for provisioning - they have been re- converted to conventional eating habits. On the menu were the scallops (with white wine), a warm red cabbage salad with bacon, goat cheese and pine nuts followed by rotini with meat sauce and Larry’s Traversay III dessert (mandarin oranges, frozen blueberries and orange liqueur). We set out the red wine, and it was well-used by all.

This morning we said good-by with sadness (at least on our part). We don’t know when we will see them again.

*MLSS – Marine Life Sanctuary Society*

Saturday, 15 September 2018

The Weathered totems of Ninstints


Beams still upright from the long house




Nancy with one of the poles
We have just returned from visiting the best surviving remnants of a Haida village. The day has been windy, but gloriously sunny. We managed to find a safe anchoring site nearby, and walked the wooden boardwalk past the empty Watchman's cottage and over to the totem-filled site. The poles were upright and in good condition … they were slightly more weathered than when I first saw them in 1994, but perhaps some effort has gone into their preservation as this is the only site on our trip which is actually designated as a World Heritage site.

We took many photos, but unfortunately this is the best one that I was able to 'scale down' for the blog. I will replace it when we have internet access.

Later …

Leftovers from the whaling days in Rose Harbour
We are back in Rose Harbour after the 1 hr and 15 minute trip from Ninstints. Although we saw smoke curling from the fireplace, no one answered our radio call (often WE don't hear radio calls) and we felt unsafe bringing the dinghy in to shore as the water seemed very shallow. At any rate, we're very busy preparing for our Big Trip back to Laredo Channel. We'll leave here at 8pm and it will be about a 21 hour trip. We're looking forward to meeting our friends Joss Schneider and Matt Hopkins. They've been busy doing marine research surveys for the Dept. of Fisheries in this part of the world for the last few years. We saw them the night before we left for our trip to Australia and Chile (that was on May 1, 2016) so it will be a happy reunion. It's 5pm and I have just left the dinner (beef with mushrooms, carrots, potatoes and dried figs) happily simmering in the pressure cooker.
I'll go out to help Larry heft the deflated dinghy into the forward hold and the dinner will be ready at 6pm. That leaves plenty of time for Larry to do his oil change and for Nancy to attack the pile of dishes. Maybe I'll help today.

We Hit the Jackpot!

We Hit the Jackpot!

Bear in Bag Harbour


As we returned to Bag Harbour yesterday after our trip to Burnaby Narrows in the dinghy, Nancy spotted a black bear ashore … we were able to get close enough to get a few photos of Himself and the smaller Herself (or baby) which followed shortly after.

We were delighted as we had been scanning the shoreline whenever the tide was low to see if a bear happened to be nosing along looking for available shellfish and other edibles.

After the bears had both disappeared into the woods (perhaps to set off over the mountain) and I still had the camera ‘at the ready’ the clever twosome (Larry and Nancy) spotted some sea lions nearby, rearing up and playing with each other and clearly interested in us. It was not a surprise since on our entry Thursday night into the Bag anchorage, we spotted at least eight sea lions gambolling in the waves in a huge and happy group. We managed to ‘bag’ a lovely photo of a sea lion (our boat appropriately anchored in the background).

Sea lions in Bag Harbour
I had taken my small waterproof camera for our dinghy trip to Burnaby Narrows. This is a narrow tidal passage that winds it’s way between Burnaby Island and Moresby Island. When we were here 24 years ago, we were able to take Traversay II through it. But we are much larger (especially Trav III) and older (especially Larry and myself) now so we decided yesterday not to risk our boat between the dangerous rocks. Nonetheless, the Captain thoroughly prepared for our little jaunt – printing out a map and instructions from the book: ‘The North Coast of BC’ (Douglass & Hemmingway Douglass) as the Transport Canada directions for sailors are not accurate. A method probably introduced thousands of years ago for navigating such a passage is used here by the fishermen (and now boaters) who ply these waters. A series of markers and the helmsman’s good eye-brain-hand co-ordination are used for each of the turning points in the route. Only when the boat is moved so that the markers are juxtaposed directly over and under each other will you be in the correct place to avoid a collision with the rocks. Of course, one can only use this channel at high tide when the rocks are completely hidden. Of course, by using the dinghy we could choose to go during a falling tide so that we could see some of the underwater life and get a few photos of the blue and orange bat seastars and crabs.

Bat stars in Burnaby Narrows
We had heard that Bag H was a great place for salmon fishing (and that’s why there were bears and sea lions). Even though we don’t fish we did eat salmon (smoked salmon sandwiches for lunch and a cooked salmon with pasta and spicy salsa for dinner). Another vegetable was about to fail, so I used it to make a Cauliflower and Almond creamed soup for lunch. There’s enough of the soup to feed us at noon today, and I cooked enough salmon last night to make sandwiches.
On our way into our current anchorage of Rose Harbour we passed several rocks which had an immense Sea Lion Rookery. Larry’s photos have not yet been edited, but I’m certain we’ll have some good ones. So we hit the Jackpot as far as having contact with a lot of the animals we had hoped to see during this trip.
We also got a chance to see and talk to a few other humans … we were questioned by a Parks Canada patrol boat while we were at Jedway. The old iron ore mine here was used to ship tons of ore to Japan in the mid-20th Century. When we were here in the 1990s we went ashore just to look at the old townsite – seeing rusted bedsprings and abandoned bicycles. Fortunately, we had mentioned our desire to re-visit the site when we were getting our passports at the Heritage Centre in Skidegate. Larry relayed this information to the polite young Parks agents - they  called their Boss – and we went on our way again.
Rusty relics in Jedway

In a short time, we’ll all have eaten breakfast and we’ll be on our way once again. Today we will visit the most well-preserved village and a World Heritage Site of Nanstints (formerly Ninstints on Anthony Island).





Friday, 14 September 2018

Venison Stew in Tanu and Hotsprings

A deer in Tanu



On Tuesday after the large raven bade us farewell in K'uuna (Skedans) we hastened back to the boat and placed the frozen deer meat in the freezer, which is gradually emptying.

Hotsprings Cove change rooms and pools 
Wednesday I got up and looked for a venison recipe. I unloaded a bag of dairy products from the refrigerator, and I made room for the marinated deer meat and the two containers of cold pear soup. We have no handy internet or 'Google' out here so fortunately I found a recipe for venison stew. It was in a lovely old cookbook which a former piano student had gifted me with at least thirty years ago. I set to work. The meat was thawed, and then it was marinated in an oil, fresh thyme and brandy sauce in the 'fridge for 5 hours. It was then taken out of the marinade (which was saved) and dried with paper towels. A roux (made of flour added to butter) was created in the pot along with onions. The deer meat was popped in with more thyme, salt and pepper and mushrooms and it was browned before being covered with red wine and cooked under maximum pressure for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, baby potatoes and a cup of frozen baby carrots were prepared to add to the venison along with the used but still good saved marinade. Everyone agreed that this was a marvelous tribute to the deer which Dee-D said she had thanked for giving its life - a traditional Haida invocation of gratitude to Nature's bounty. I fully realized throughout this time of preparation that my European way of cooking (particularly the use of liquor) was very much against what would have been the cooking method of the Haida. It also goes against the current desire of many of these people - they view alcohol as one of the European introductions which has most contributed to the ruin of their culture.

This trip has been very different from our earlier trips. That's because I wanted to make really special food for my friend Nancy after her many years of service to her Muse - Classical music. For this magical trip to the Gwaii Haanas Park it would be possible to have some exciting cuisine. This time we have been able to store a great number of fresh vegetables and fruits. Many of them are in a hatch at the back of the boat. Unfortunately they can still get hot with the beautiful sunny weather we've been blessed with. So I usually take them out at night to chill down thoroughly under the canopy of the dodger (sprayhood for those sailing friends in London who might read this!). I had to throw out a soggy and overheated container of spinach - one lot had already been used up in a warm spinach salad - a great (but easy) - recipe in 'Whitewater Cooks'. Larry won our first of this series of cookbooks books at the Cruising Sailor's Rendezvous we attended in August. Along with losing the spinach, the mushrooms were also getting unappetizing, but they added great flavour to the stew. Alas, I'd noticed that the bosc pears were also definitely past their 'use by' date. I found a delicious salad recipe with lettuce, bosc pear, blue cheese and maple-candied pecans (also in WW Cooks) and retrieved a cold pear, kefir, cinnamon with a small splash of orange liqueur recipe from my trusty Pressure Cooker cookbook. These were ready to go on this active day. Not too many of our provisions are going to waste. I have plenty of red and green cabbage and root vegetables and Granny Smith apples laid by so we won't lack fresh vegetables. Of course, there's also a plentiful supply of limes and some lemons so scurvy will never be an issue on this vessel. It would be hard to explain missing teeth and rotten gums to our dentists and families!

On Wednesday between preparing and eating all of that, we reached the little island of Tanu (T'aanuu Linagaay in the Haida language) and found that the Watchmen had already departed for home for the Season. However, the wonderful presentation which Dee-D had given us the day before enabled us to identify many of the moss-covered wooden relics of this former stronghold of the Haida. This is where the grave of artist Bill Reid is buried under a beautiful marker and under his Haida name. When I visited here in 1994, the day was rough, windy and dark and the aspect of the island appeared dark and mystical to me - wandering amongst the ghosts of the past alone. Larry had to stay out on Traversay II while I rowed ashore. This time, we were together with Nancy and we had a brilliant day. The streaks of sunlight which managed to penetrate through the heavy mantle of spruce branches high overhead rendered a varied celebration of the colour 'Green'. A deer wandered into view, hesitated, went inland foraging and then decided that we weren't a threat and lingered to have its picture taken. We followed the path marked out by white shells. Upon discovering a 'nest' of white shells, I planted one beside the path and remembered our daughter Alice who would have loved to be with us.

That evening our anchorage was visited by six eagles whose distinctive cry drew us out to watch them scavenging on the beach.

Nancy and Sean
We got up early yesterday because of the long day of motoring which awaited us. We were anxious to get to Hotspring Island. It has reverted to it's historic name which I cannot pronounce - Gandll K'in Gwaay.yaay. We were met at the beach by Watchman Sean who is an anthropologist with a musician wife and small daughter. They were busy getting ready to leave for winter quarters in Skidegate where Sean is the Director of the Haida Heritage Centre (which we visited on Saturday). The island has recovered from an earthquake in 2012 which relocated some of the hot sulphur spring water with which it is gifted. Today, with new structures and improved basins for the hot pools there are three pools to choose from. The hottest is about 105 degrees and this is where Seans' relatives Derek and son Eric were relaxing. While Nancy preferred to stay in the 100 degree water, we each found these waters very soothing for our aching and ageing bones and bodies. This island is a 'must' for the many tourists who arrive on tour boats. Sean had guided more than 40 tourists on Wednesday. Despite the lovely sulphur treatment, I had knee trouble last evening. After a stew and corn-on-the-cob dinner, Nancy 'forced' me to relax on the couch, also lending me her knee support. The most relaxing part of my day arrives every evening when Nancy insists on doing all the collected dishes. Larry provided a climax to the wonderful day by bringing out the Cookies-n-Cream ice cream which he had secreted at the bottom of the freezer.


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At 2018-09-14 12:55 (utc) our position was 52°20.84'N 131°21.79'W

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

K'uuna Linagaay (Skedans)


 Dee-D teaching us about her culture


Yesterday we met some quite incredible humans. They have been spending immense spiritual and physical energy to help people from all over the world to understand the traditions which animated the Haida culture. Dee-Dee met our little dinghy on the waterfront when we towed our dinghy ashore. She was just finishing guiding a large expedition tour group along the carefully laid out pathway through the historic village of K'uuna or Skedans (that's the European name). Dee-D is one of the watchmen of the islands who teach us what it means to be of Haida origin. So far this year nearly 4,000 people will have visited this site as the tourists depart and the season draws to a close.

Dee-D invited us to wait at the firepit near the beach, but we were sidetracked by re-meeting Jennifer and Julia on their way to the Watchmen's hut. Nancy and I had met them in the laundromat in QCV on Saturday. They filled us in on the adventures they had been having with their group. So we tagged along into the hut where watchman Eric and Dee-D finished with the group by gifting them with freshly baked cinnamon buns. We talked about whales, the Haida art that has vanished into Japanese collections and to Museums all over the world, and watched Eric weaving a tiny basket using red cedar bark strips.

Mortuary pole
Then we followed Dee-D into the forest. We looked at the remains of long houses, we heard about the 'mother cedar' house supports which formerly upheld the large individual houses and the community longhouse (home of the overall birth Chief), about the funerary mortuary poles and about the potlatches (celebrations) which formed the basis of this same chief's lasting gifts to the members of his clan. The two Clans of the Haida had either the Eagle or the Raven as their emblem, and the two Clans we locked into a collaborative effort because one's house could only be built by the alternate clan. Dee-D made clear to us the impressionistic cedar art-works which had adorned the village in times past. She told us about the rebellion of the Haida people when their trees and seabeds were ruthlessly logged or despoiled and how they managed to stop the progress of 'civilization' and create the Park in collaboration with Parks Canada.

Dee-D explained how her grandmother had taught her the Haida belief: that we ALL own the earth - not just one or two of us - we are all inheritors. And afterwards, she gifted us with beautiful red salal jam and some deer which she says was thanked for all those of us who are now partaking in the meat he provided.

And today we walked through the high green forest and the mossy remains of the beautiful village of Taanu. I was on the island all alone 24 years ago. Larry had stayed out on Traversay II because it was too rough to leave the boat anchored. I rowed ashore and visited the silent green groves and the graveyard. We didn't see the graveyard today but we have read that famed artist Bill Reid (sculptor of the Jade Canoe - a centerpiece of the Vancouver International Airport) is buried in Taanu.

After we left Dee-D in K'uuna ... we saw this raven which watched until Larry took his photo ... he flew away just as we were about to depart!

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At 2018-09-13 04:47 (utc) our position was 52°41.56'N 131°45.86'W

K'uuna Linagaay (Skedans)

Yesterday we met some quite incredible humans. They have been spending immense spiritual and physical energy to help people from all over the world to understand the traditions which animated the Haida culture. Dee-Dee met our little dinghy on the waterfront when we towed our dinghy ashore. She was just finishing guiding a large expedition tour group along the carefully laid out pathway through the historic village of K'uuna or Skedans (that's the European name). Dee-D is one of the watchmen of the islands who teach us what it means to be of Haida origin. So far this year nearly 4,000 people will have visited this site as the tourists depart and the season draws to a close.

Dee-D invited us to wait at the firepit near the beach, but we were sidetracked by re-meeting Jennifer and Julia on their way to the Watchmen's hut. Nancy and I had met them in the laundromat in QCV on Saturday. They filled us in on the adventures they had been having with their group. So we tagged along into the hut where watchman Eric and Dee-D finished with the group by gifting them with freshly baked cinnamon buns. We talked about whales, the Haida art that has vanished into Japanese collections and to Museums all over the world, and watched Eric weaving a tiny basket using red cedar bark strips.

Then we followed Dee-D into the forest. We looked at the remains of long houses, we heard about the 'mother cedar' house supports which formerly upheld the large individual houses and the community longhouse (home of the overall birth Chief), about the funerary mortuary poles and about the potlatches (celebrations) which formed the basis of this same chief's lasting gifts to the members of his clan. The two Clans of the Haida had either the Eagle or the Raven as their emblem, and the two Clans we locked into a collaborative effort because one's house could only be built by the alternate clan. Dee-D made clear to us the impressionistic cedar art-works which had adorned the village in times past. She told us about the rebellion of the Haida people when their trees and seabeds were ruthlessly logged or despoiled and how they managed to stop the progress of 'civilization' and create the Park in collaboration with Parks Canada.

Dee-D explained how her grandmother had taught her the Haida belief: that we ALL own the earth - not just one or two of us - we are all inheritors. And afterwards, she gifted us with beautiful red salal jam and some deer which she says was thanked for all those of us who are now partaking in the meat he provided.

And today we walked through the high green forest and the mossy remains of the beautiful village of Taanu. I was on the island all alone 24 years ago. Larry had stayed out on Traversay II because it was too rough to leave the boat anchored. I rowed ashore and visited the silent green groves and the graveyard. We didn't see the graveyard today but we have read that famed artist Bill Reid (sculptor of the Jade Canoe - a centerpiece of the Vancouver International Airport) is buried in Taanu.

After we left Dee-D in K'uuna ... we saw this raven which watched until Larry took his photo ... he flew away just as we were about to depart!