Trip to Haida Gwaii – 2012 The Miles, Motts and McGill’s (You didn't have to have a last name beginning with M, but it helped)

From the Log Book of the
Full Moon

To see photos of this cruise go to Haida Gwaii Cruise.

Our date for leaving on this trip was planned for June 1st, but with high winds in Georgia Straight we ended up leaving Captains Cove on June 2nd, meeting up with Golden Days in the reach and proceeding to our first stopover in Pender Harbour.

For the next several days we would anchor in Squirrel Cove, Walsh Cove, Bickley Bay and then dock in Port Harvey. Day 7 we anchor in Potts Lagoon and have a real thrill when we spot a Mother Grizzle and her 2 cubs eating grass in a meadow. Waters have been mostly calm to this point and little rain.

Spent 2 nights at the docks in Port McNeill. There are only about 6 boats at this time. Day 10 and we are up at 5:00am to heavy rain, but little wind. We are leaving at 6:00am to cross Queen Charlotte Straight to reach Drury Inlet. It is again cold, wet and miserable. Arrive at Jennis Bay @ 1:30pm and the rain stops for happy hour. We watch 2 eagles feeding on the rocks. We had good luck getting 94 small prawns, but no crabs. The rain doesn’t stop for the 3 nights we were there.

Day 14 - We will make the trip around Cape Caution towards Fitz Hugh Sound. Spent the night at beautiful Green Island. We actually had sunshine so did a little fishing. From there we continue around Fitz Hugh Sound, with stops at Koeye River then to Namu, the former site of BC Packers Fish Cannery. It is in total collapse and is a disgrace to see rotting buildings and machinery just left all over the place to rot.

Off to Kakushdish Harbour with heavy winds all night long estimated at 40nots so we spend a rather sleepless night. The rain doesn’t let up so spend another night on anchor.

Day 17 - and although the winds have calmed down the rain is coming at us in sheets, we are in the Rain Forest after all, but it would be nice to have a dry day. Anchor in Discovery Cove and are the only 2 boats there. We actually arrive in Shearwater on a dry day. We will be here for 3 nights waiting for a mechanic to install a part on Little Red. Take the ferry over to Bella Bella to do a grocery run, as the store in Shearwater is not the best.

Day 21 - We anchor in Rescue Bay. No rain and calm seas. Day 22 and we spend most of the day traveling around Fjordland in Kynoch Inlet. Spot a mother grizzle and 2 cubs at the end of the inlet when we stop for lunch. Anchored in Windy Bay for the night and the rains again have returned. Crabbing was excellent but no prawns.

Off to Butedale, another decaying site left to rot and spoil the scenic beautify of this nice little spot. The waterfalls however are beautiful. We have been searching for the elusive Spirit Bear with no luck.

Day 25 - We raft to Golden Days on the docks in Hartley Bay. There is no charge for dock space or power. Their entire little town is made up of wooden walkways and they get around in golf carts or ATV machines. There are no stores for supplies but the fuel dock is spacious. Their long house is worth the visit. The people are extremely friendly. We fuel up the next morning and make our way to Swanson Bay and Kumlalon Inlet. It is again pouring rain.

Day 27 & 28 - We spend on anchor, as the winds and rain are nasty. Day 29 and the weather is calm with about a 2-foot chop so we make our way to Larsen Harbour to meet up with Akubi. The weather for the crossing tomorrow looks good.

Day 30 - We leave Larsen Harbour at 6:00am with pretty calm waters arriving in Sandspit at 2:00pm. The dock in Sandspit is terrific, but in the middle of nowhere.

Day 31 - July 1st We take Little Red over to Queen Charlotte City. Canada Day does not seem to be celebrated much over here. Back in Sandspit we decide to go out for Chinese Food. The walk we are told is a short 15 minutes. It is not and after about a 45-minute walk we arrive at Dick’s Wok Inn Chinese Restaurant. Tomorrow Brian will fly back to the mainland.

Day 32 - We head back to Skidegate via cab & Ferry to rent a vehicle and travel up to Massetsouvenir. Our first stop is at the Haida Heritage Centre to pick up our park passes and do the museum tour. This is well worth your visit. Next stop is at Tlell to see the balance rock just by the highway then off to Masset. Don’t get your hopes up thinking you have actually reached an area where you might purchase a souvenir of the Queen Charlotte Islands. This place has seen better days. They have the usual hardware and grocery store and not much else. The pub seems to be the most active place in town. Off we go towards our destination for the night, a quirky little place outside of Tow Hill. Apparently when Don & Bernie rented these lovely rustic cabins, they neglected to find out “what off the grid” means. We had no running water and no indoor plumbing. I will say one thing, the place was spotless and the beds terrific. We walked around Tow Hill and the Blow Hole and then spent a quiet evening watching the sun go down on North Beach.

On the return trip we stop early in Old Massett, here they have started to erect Totem and other types of poles in their independent front yards. Again there is nothing open so we continue down to Port Clements to see the Golden Spruce that was cut down in 1997 by a disgruntled former forester. (There is a sapling protected by a chain link fence behind the Church.) A visit to the Mac/Blow museum is worth an hour of your time.

Day 34 - Terrific weather so we fuel up and make our way to the first Haida Watchman site at Skedans (K’uuna Linagaay) where we receive about a one and half hour tour of the Native site. You will not find any standing poles here, nothing really except logs and beams that have returned to the earth and are covered by heavy moss. Meet back up with Akubi in Thurston Harbour on Talunkwan Island. Temperature seems to have dropped and it is cold enough to be wearing long johns.

Day 36 - We arrive at Tanu (T’aanuu Linagaay) our 2nd site. We receive a tour by Watchmen Walter and Mary. Again not much there except the fallen remains of the former grand long houses.

Day 38 – Next stop is Windy Bay (Gandi K’in Gwaay.yaay). This is not the easiest place to get into. (This is where and why you need to have high rubber boots on.) We get a demonstration on how to open up a Sea Urchin. Pat & the guys say it tasted like chicken and I will take their word on that. There are no remains here but it was a place where people met during the logging protests in 1985. There is a large spruce tree estimated to be 1000 years old. We had plans to go onto the Hot Springs, but they said they could not take us until the next day.

Day 39 - You cannot enter the Hot Springs from the front. You go to the backside of the Island and then walk through to the other side, staying within the shell lined pathway. You just have to obey the rules about rinsing off prior to getting into the pools and alcohol is strictly prohibited. The 3 springs are all at different temperatures and are crystal clear. The weather was clear and mild.

Day 40 - We are now outside of Burnaby Narrows. We do a couple of test runs at low water to see the channel and follow the markers. This would be an excellent spot to go in using a canoe or kayak as at low tide you get to see so much sea life on the reefs.

It is now high slake and Randy goes first on Golden Days as a lookout. Bernie is through and Randy comes back and is rear lookout on our boat. Bernie comes back to Akubi and assists Randy as rear lookout on Akubi. Believe me these narrows are just that, narrow with many reefs, so it can be very intimidating and you have to precisely line up with the markers. Once we are all through we anchor in Bag Harbour just on the other side of the narrows.

Day 41 - July 11th we fish on our way to Collison Bay, but miss the turn and head for Carpenter Bay. Will meet up again with Akubi & Golden Days in Rose Harbour.

Day 42 - We arrive in Rose Harbour and tie up to the only remaining mooring buoy. When the others arrive we raft to each side of Akubi. The mooring buoy is very large and seems very secure. There is not a lot of room in the anchorage for many boats. (The books said there were 3 buoys but 2 have since been destroyed in storms.)

We make our way over to Anthony Island. Lots of sea fog and white caps on the water and the wind is really picking up. Had to call the Watchmen on the VHF twice to get the correct information on where to land the dinghies. This is also a difficult place to get into. The tour is about 1 hour and 30 minutes, but with the weather deteriorating quickly we ask for a shortened version. This is by far the most interesting of the four sites. Lots of standing mortuary poles, but again you have to stay inside of the marked area. The 2 watchmen were extremely informative.

Head back to Rose Harbour and go out fishing. Pat catches the big Halibut.

Rose Harbour was at one time a Whaling Station and several of the old machinery pieces still remain. There are 3 families that still live there. Gootz (left over from his hippy days) runs the B&B where all the kayakers stay and Susie runs Susie’s Diner. They charge $35.00 each for dinner and Pat took the contribution of her Halibut that she caught that morning. You can also bring your own wine. Wonderful fresh salad and home made bread and dessert. You could meet up with other boaters, or groups of kayakers. One of the young helpers that Susie recruits each year come up alone in her sailboat which was a 32 day trip.

Day 44, 45, 46, 47 and 48 we remain on anchor as the winds are around 25-35 knots with high seas. By this time we are starting to worry about running out of wine. It looks like we can leave tomorrow, but it might be ruff so we strip everything off of Little Red (our fishing boat they we are towing) just in case we have to cut her loose.

Day 49 - We are up at 3:20am. Engines started at 4:00 sharp and we untie the raft. The winds were calm for the first hour or so and then they started picking up along with high swells. About 3 hours into the run we just getting hammered with the waves hitting us on the beam. Luckily there is no rain but have to keep the wipers going just to keep the spray off the windshield. We finally have to increase our speed just so Little Red can plane out a bit.

We arrive in Shearwater around 6:00pm (14 hour trip), Golden Day and Akubi are another two hours. Bernie tells us we were only in 20knot winds with seas around 2 meters so I guess that wasn’t really that bad at all.

Day 51 - We leave Shearwater heading to the Kait Narrows to go fishing. 2 Coho caught by the Miles and the Motts.

Day 52 - Don finally gets a small 8 lb. spring. No crabs

Day 53 – We all Anchor in Codville.

Day 54 - Check the crab traps and Don has 5 large and Bernie has 8. Also we have 135 prawns between the 2 traps. Head over to Pruth Bay (via Fitz Hugh Sound) and Randy catches an 8 lb. salmon. Crab for dinner tonight.

Day 55 - We Catch 4 Coho. Finally saw a humpback whale. Trap has another 6 crab.

Day 56 - Another 7 Coho today, let 2 smaller ones go and give 1 to Akubi. Sited another whale. About 12 more crab. Cannot get any more fish in the freezer. Walk around Hakai Institute area and walk out on West Beach. The rock formations are interesting.

Day 57 - Leave Pruth Bay and head towards Fury Cove. We can see the temperature rise on one engine and discover the idling pulley has come completely apart. Will get it replaced in Port McNeill.

Day 58 - The crossing around Cape Caution was terrific. Low swells, lots of sunshine and no winds. Arrive in Port McNeill and go up to Rona to purchase another freezer. Don is expecting to catch more fish. Akubi & Golden Days will arrive in a couple of days after they tour around the Northern tip of Vancouver Island.

Day 62 - Finally get the part installed and leave Port McNeill on our way to Fairwell Harbour. Again we part company as Don is now on the hunt for Spring Salmon.

For the next few days we will do nothing but fish. We fish in the rain, the sun, the fog and the wind, limiting out on Spring Salmon. I’m sure Little Red will run out of fuel soon so that is my only saving grace.

Day 67 – We meet back up with Golden Days in Port Neville and head off to Forward Harbour.

Day 68 - We leave Forward Harbour in the fog and have to rely totally on radar as we can hardly see Golden Days in front of us. Our timing for Whirlpool Rapids & Greenpoint Rapids is as perfect as it gets.

We head into Blind Bay for fuel for Little Red, but they are unfortunately out and so are we so I guess no more fishing for a while. We raft up to Golden Days in Shoal Bay.

Day 69 - we fish most of the way till we reach Johnstone Straight. We are now in the Octopus Islands and the weather is a little windy, but beautiful and sunny.

Day 70 – We leave Octopus Islands and head to the Hole in the Wall and get a nice push all the way though. Raft up to Golden Days in Squirrel Cove. There is barely enough room to swing a cat around. Head out for a terrific dinner and have to if you can believe re-stock up on wine.

Day 71, 72, and 73

We say good-byes to Pat and Bernie as they are meeting up with other RCYC boats and we are starting to make our way home because we can’t keep the freezers frozen and are worried about losing the fish.

Spent two peaceful nights in the Copeland Islands catching many prawns. Headed straight back to Captains Cove on day 73. It is now August 12th.

Things to remember when traveling to the Queen Charlotte Islands.

You need to attend an orientation class and you need to purchase a park pass. If you are staying longer than 6 days you will be given a season pass. The 2012 rate was $117.70 each and is good for three years. The class we had to attend was in North Vancouver. You can also attend orientations in the Haida Heritage Centre just north of Queen Charlotte City. This could work out well as you could visit the Museum at the same time.

Facilities in and around Gwaii Haanas are minimal. There are no roads, stores of fueling facilities. They do not maintain hiking trail in the era and there are few mooring buoys, two water hoses and limited navigational aids.

We did not find any of the sites easy to access. You really need to have a dinghy that you can pull up on shore. They limit the number visitors and you need to call the Watchmen ahead and ask permission land. They are extremely friendly and knowledgeable.

Your last stop for fuel is in Sandspit, but shopping for supplies will be a cab ride away.

Take high rubber boots. Ladies, those cute fancy flip flops won't work here. Rain-gear is necessary as is warm clothing.

Make sure all your charts are up to date. Parks Canada has an informative website on Gwaii Haanas.

The best fishing in the Queen Charlotte area is not until September - October 1st. so towing a second boat across is unnecessary. Leave it tied to the dock at Sherewater. Just use your dinghy.