The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 19

A basket Starfish

THE ADVENTURES OF THE AUDREY ELEANOR
MAGIC 2 UNDER THE SEA

In the previous storey we left you while we were floating under the stars in the hot tub.

There is a small community in Squirrel Cove. The general store is well stocked and has a decent marine hardware section. This is our introduction to “the oyster man”; he is located on Cortes Island and supplies a few of the local stores with his product. Locally grown and smoked oysters, amazing. The cans of oysters are way too small no matter size they are.

We decide that we need to stretch our sea legs and walk north along the paved road that leaves the General Store for other points on Cortes Island. In the ditches we discover the end of the summer’s crop of blackberries or brambles. I have picked these berries before. I refuse to climb down into the ditches telling the Captain that I preferred to stay as far out the brush as I could. The things are infested with snakes…he laughs at me.

I can see this funny look come over his face as he steps further into the brambles, the thorny brush rips your skin, but that look on his face tells me that he isn’t parting with his skin, I bet he has discovered the “snakes!” Sure enough, he says hmm…there are snakes aren’t there. I take a stick and pull the thorny branches back; the earth is writhing with garter snakes slithering just out of the reach of my stick.

Between us we pick lots of berries for jam and a few extra pints get dedicated to a beautiful blackberry tincture. (Ask me about this stuff)

There is a trail that connects Squirrel Cove to Von Don Up Inlet on the opposite side of the Island. We plan to anchor in Von Don Up so passed on walking the trail. We roared back to Audrey in the zodiac, pulled anchor and left to seek out another adventure. The water in this area has been reported to get as warm as Mexican waters; the oysters grow huge here because of it. This time of the year I preferred to laze in the hot tub.

Von Don Up is a long narrow inlet that allows you deep access into the mid section of Cortes Island. Again, we are not alone in what is considered a late time for travel for this area. There is an eye-catching yacht, custom built in Holland that is anchored in the centre of the bay. The lady from aboard this vessel is a larger sized woman. The custom-rowing skiff has obviously been built for her. She skims across the water with total ease and grace, it’s wonderful to watch. She looks free and light, as she appears to escape the weight of the world.

Whale town is our next stop. The ferry connects Cortes Island to Quadra Island at this point and from Quadra Island the ferry connects to Vancouver Island and Campbell River.

We have difficulty setting the anchor; the bottom of this bay is all sand. The anchor sets us within talking distance of a 65’ sailboat. Two teen-age boys are swabbing the decks. They come with additional family members that total twelve. They have been living on the sailboat for two years, wintering on Vancouver Island. It is an amazing feat; they are all home schooled by their parents. There would be no escape space anywhere onboard this sailboat with twelve people, you would be praying for good weather.

The set of the anchor concerns us so our trip ashore is short. We are on to the next stop, Gorge Harbour. The entrance to this harbour is impressive. Narrow natural rock face cliffs complete with ancient rock drawings guard the passageway. The channel opens into a large bay the centre of which is a large shell fish farm. The sky is streaked with pinks and purples; it’s time to settle in for the night.

We decide to splurge and go ashore for dinner. There is a commercial dock to portside and with a little house beside it has been converted into a restaurant, it looks magical. The anchor is dropped and we roar ashore for dinner. The water that drips off of the oars is glowing with phosphorous, we are leaving a trail of twinkling lights in the black water behind us, Fairy lights in the Ocean are unbelievable.

Dinner is wonderful, sitting on the little deck with lights twinkling on the shore and reflecting off of the still water. The smoked black cod was the best that I’ve had and that means beating out the Empress Hotel in Victoria for first place. The night is so calm that the candle on our table barely flickers as it casts shadows on the wine glasses.

The next morning we reluctantly haul anchor to cruise to Read Island, we are going fishing after all. Evans Bay by Read Island is a new anchorage for us. There is a house for sale at the head of the bay; this is a sparsely inhabited area. Once the anchor is set however, a small boat heads our way. They are an older couple and they own the house at the head of the bay, their house is for sale. The Captain asks about crabbing in the area, the response is that they have been here for twenty-five years and there are no crabs. Damn is there nothing left anywhere in this south country!

The couple is heading to their winter home in Campbell River, health has dictated that they spend time closer to health facilities; this is why their island home is for sale.
The fishing gear needs to be sorted and with our heads down we don’t see the tidy little Grand Banks named “HERS” approaching. There is a persistent knocking on the hull, up come our heads as the visiting Captain hands over a large slab of cod…”hope you like fish he says, just caught it this morning.” He also is heading for Campbell River to pick up his wife, after all the boat is “HERS”. They live in Los Angles, but keep their boat moored in Seattle. Business brings them to Seattle often so they keep moorage and use HERS as their floating apartment while they are there. Holidays simply mean cruising away from the dock. I’d never thought of AUDREY as waterfront property on the Sunshine coast, it was a different perspective.

Following his directions we set out to become the fish slayers. On the first cast the Captain lands a two-pound sea perch, good that’s supper, but not so. He says its bait for the “big” one, yeah right; it would have to be a giant to chase that bait. It is a giant; the cod that almost immediately swallows this perch looks too big to pull into the zodiac.

Have you seen the size of the heads on those things! He’s going to eat us. The cod is four feet long with an overgrown head; the cod head will be crab bait, what the heck you never know till you try right. That is, if we can fit the head into the crab trap minus his cheeks. As the giant cod is gaffed and held to the side of the boat he lets go of the perch. The perch executes a mighty twist, wrenches the hook from his mouth and swims away, perfect!

The sky is red this evening and a strange light is reflecting up from the depths of the ocean. We decide that we will watch for the evening star from the front deck. The dimming switch on the stars is being turned up brighter and brighter. Thick billowing rain clouds are building and rolling towards us. As the evening skies darken eerie lights start to appear in the black water. My favourite, there is phosphorous here.

Jellyfish show up first, outlined in electric blue and pulsating. Now we see tiny flickers of darting light as tiny and usually translucent bugs begin to appear. There are out lines of fish darting after the bugs. They show up as submersed comets in the water. The ocean is pulsating with millions of flickers and streaks of light lined creatures. The sensation that the ocean is breathing intimidates me; the whole sea is boiling with life, it is a living entity. Millions of creatures are now visible to the naked eye; the thought of swimming in this soup of life makes even the well-seasoned diving Captain think twice.

The rain hits in huge drops.

Now we are Disneyland. The giant raindrops hit the water and explode in a million reverberating droplets that burst into showers of light. The hills and bay are glowing in green light. Creatures below the surface appear to be swimming in thickening lime Jell-O. Torrents of rain bounce against the surface of the ocean and we are driven inside. The pounding raindrops flash back green light and illuminate the saloon …this really is magic!

P.S. We did catch three edible sized crabs in our trap; they had a tight squeeze getting in beside that cod head. Attached to the bottom of the trap was a basket starfish; we had come across these outside of Haines. I am glad that we had seen this before after last night we might have thought that we’d captured a sea going alien.

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 18

MAGIC 1 FLOATING UNDER THE STARS

MAGIC 1 FLOATING UNDER THE STARS

It’s time for a little magic. The end of what we thought wasn’t a bad summer is drawing to a close. The locals in Pender Harbour and Madeira Park complain about climate change and in their minds, lack of a summer at all. I admit that it wasn’t as hot as I would have liked it, but the days were mostly clear and sunny. Diving directly off of the dock into the ocean had happened once or twice. To the Captains delight, some of the bar maids came down at night to skinny dip.

I finally got a chance to experiment with my new dry suit. It is a strange sight to see, trying to keep upright and walk half sub-merged around the docks causes people to do a double take when you walk/ flop past their boat way out past the shore line. We have a floating hot tub that we keep tied dockside so if the water feels too cool for a dip we just heat her up a little. I have to say that there is nothing that compares to hot salt water for relaxing or making your skin feel like velvet. After sanding the gunnels on the boat all day it feels wonderful.

Labour day weekend has come and gone and so have the crowds. After the solitude of living and travelling in the north, the crowds are really unsettling. Desolation Sound is well known and well travelled with southern boaters. It’s a skip and a jump for boaters travelling from Vancouver. Depending on the speed of their boats they can get to Squirrel Cove on Cortes Island in a day. Pender Harbour is a natural stop over; known as the Venice of the North, it has beautiful, secure little coves, several waterfront restaurants and bars and the “Royal” Yacht clubs for both Vancouver and Seattle. While the club members hadn’t been the most friendly of folks, over the summer they provided all of us summer locals with great entertainment.

The Royal Yacht Club ships are magnificent to watch coming into harbour, you can almost walk across this bay on anchored yachts. Dodging them with the zodiac to get to the Garden Bay Pub takes skill. We have airplane wheels on our zodiac, this makes us run a little lower in the water and we create a bigger wake then we’d like. It’s slow going but allows for a bit of conversation with the little guys. The Yacht clubs are a “member’s only” situation for moorage or participation. Well when the big boys with the big flags arrive, it’s like watching elephants trying to step through a field of mice and not squash them or worse get their feet dirty.

Consideration for fellow boaters seems to depend on size and anything below the extensive gunnels of the ‘ Royal’ yachters is almost none existent as they motor toward the Seattle yacht club. In their wake the little sailboats truly look like pendulums in clocks as their owners attempt to maintain themselves topside with their barking miniature dogs and sloshing martinis.

Sound carries very well on water, verbal challenges charge across the harbour flying back and forth accompanied by the scrapping sound of metal on fibreglass. With the distraction by these colourful words one Skipper has forgotten that there were only two feet separating him from the boat on his portside, he now has managed to secure that neighbours anchor line as well. The angry voices now arrive in stereo. Ah-h-h life in the densely populated south!

The Captain is not a sports fisherman, he subsistence fishes. Isn’t it amazing how really basic forms of words have changed as the lack of understanding them grows? He fishes to feed us. The price of a small Dungeness crab at Madeira Park is $25. The price per pound for fish of any type is out of this world; this is all incentive to go fishing. I love rockfish and have even before they became a trendy type of food. Rockfish has become trendy because of the lack of salmon, cod or halibut. I once had to process 60 lbs of Hake fillets that I was lucky enough to come across; it’s a beautiful delicate fish.

We spend a lovely day drifting around the small islets in the mouth of Pender Harbour looking for rockfish. A time warp happens, six hours of floating on the ocean drifted by and we have nothing but a suntan to show for our time, it is perfect. But we really did want to catch some fish. We would obviously have to get out of town if we wanted to catch anything of a size for eating.

The timing is right, most people should be gone, we could head for Cortes Island, circumnavigate it and do some exploring in our old haunts around Read Island…it is time to go fishing. In peak summer months your anchorage has to be established by noon in order to find the room to set your hook. Shore tying then becomes necessary so that you do not to swing into your neighbour. It is very crowded, for the free spirit, the guidebooks have listed numerous small-protected coves as anchorages. They state that these beautiful little coves will provide privacy. This is so that you need not listen to your neighbours music or dog barking at EVERY seagull. (No, this is not so cute)

The guide books must have been published prior to fish and shellfish farming, just about ever bay listed has now been partitioned off with nets, floats, logs and very strong “don’t even think about getting close to us “ signs…all fish farms. It’s a segregated area, yachties to their space and the working fishers to theirs. Boat wakes wreck havoc on shellfish farms where mussels and oysters dangle in the salt brine on tenuous lines.

Stories of sport fishers spending a week to get a single salmon are pretty common. They have way more patience then we do. Why oh why do we allow commercial fishing in the mouths of spawning creeks and rivers people? If they can’t go home to make babies there will be NO fish. And where is the crab? The Captain truly is the crab slayer and all summer had only produced a few small rock crabs that still needed to grow up. They were sent home to the deep to develop some bulk. We want to head into less populated areas where there still might be some fish and crab left.

Audrey leaves the dock at Pender Harbour and we head up Malaspina Straight towards Powell River, Texada Island is on our Portside. It’s slightly breezy, but still hot enough to get sunburnt on the flying bridge. Just past Powell River and before Savoury Island I notice something strange in the water. The Captain slows us down for a better look.

Curioser and curioser, there is a seal in the water with a 15 lb salmon in it’s mouth. On each side of him are two seagulls both determined to steal his dinner. This seal is not concerned in the least; he is more interested in watching us motor past. The gulls are playing tug of war with the salmon and he just keeps on watching us. Slowly, and seemingly without breaking the water he sinks out of sight, with his fish. It’s a sign. We continue up past Lund and drop anchor in the Copeland Islands. Tomorrow we head for Squirrel Cove on Cortes Island.

The distances here are deceptive; everything is way closer than in the north. The next morning it only takes us an hour to arrive at Squirrel Cove. The floating bakery is closed for the season and there are two other boats already anchored here. With most anchorages in the south you need to have holding tanks for sewage, a very good idea as I can only imagine what kind of sludge there would be in these low flushing inlets with the populations that visit here.

There is an oyster farm in here as well, regardless of the holding tank rule we decide not to buy their oysters. The two little sailboats don’t look big enough to hold their crew, never mind a holding tank. Regardless, the water is crystal clear with starfish waving their arms at the oysters.

The moon is full and the stars are low enough to touch. Small lights twinkle off in the distance onboard the sailboats. We slip into our floating hot tub. The hot salt water closes over the aches of the day. A long line gets attached to the tub and we shove off into the soft darkness. Laying back watching the satellites and falling stars in the quiet black night drifting softly with the tide, if you reach up with your hand I’m sure you can tip the big dipper and get a drink, wouldn’t it be nice if it was tequila…. we are afloat under the stars. (The water in the tub is really, really warm!)

This is magic 1; the next storey is magic 2.

Can You Afford One Sleepless Night? Whitehorse Nuit Blanche Is The Reason To Do It

If you want to immerse in the works of art, then you need more than 1-2 hours or at least a night. Whitehorse Nuit Blanche 2016 is happening this weekend to give you a full night of artistic experience where you will see 10 diverse Yukon and international visual, dance, music, and theatre artists enchant Whitehorse with new performance, multi-disciplinary, participatory, and site-specific works.

Whitehorse Nuit Blanche or also known as WNB is happening on Solstice weekend. The event will start at 7 PM on Saturday (June 18) and end on Sunday at 7 AM. A free breakfast will be served at 11am Sunday, June 19 at l’AFY.

For full schedule, maps, and tickets, please go to www.whitehorsenuitblanche.com

Magnetic North Theatre Festival Brings Entertainment, Excitement, and Talent

Canada’s Magnetic North Theatre Festival 2016 is finally here in Whitehorse. It is a great mingle of local and national artists. The festival has planned many 10-day long events which include:-

Legend Has It
(Spontaneous Theatre (Toronto/Calgary). Co-presented by Yukon Arts Centre)

Pop-Up Love Party
(Zuppa Theatre Co., Halifax)

We Are Not Alone
(A 2b theatre company (Halifax) Production. Created by Crow’s Theatre and Segal Centre for Performing Arts)

Theatre in the Bush
(Ramshackle Theatre, Whitehorse)

LANDLINE: Whitehorse to Ottawa
(xosecret, Secret Theatre, Halifax)

Concord Floral
(Suburban Beast, Toronto)

Prophecy Fog
(Paper Canoe Projects, Toronto)

Town Criers
(Theatre Replacement, Vancouver. Co-presented by Yukon Arts Centre)

My Brain Is Plastic
(Whitehorse Independent Theatre, Whitehorse)

Dogtown: the Musical
(Nakai Theatre and Yukon Circus Society, Whitehorse)

Map of the Land, Map of the Stars
(Gwaandak Theatre, Whitehorse)

Tomboy Survival Guide
(Ivan Coyote, Whitehorse. Presented by Yukon Arts Centre.)

The Adventures of The Audrey Eleanor- Part 17

MATCH CUP RACE (A PRETEND) RACE IN AUCKLAND NEW ZEALAND ABOARD THE 1995 AMERICAS CUP CONTENDER. MARCH 2009 MY CAPTAIN AT THE HELM BRINGING US BACK INTO AUCKLAND HARBOUR.

SPRING IN THE HARBOUR

Spring is late coming to call in Pender Harbour this year.  Does that make you in the north feel better?  Now you should know that by late I mean the cherry blossoms are out, but the froths of pink flowers haven’t formed archways along the streets yet.  This is the beginning of April. Looking up Gunboat Bay a few days ago, fresh snow was visibly clinging to the mountains as far down as I could see. The snow had almost made it to sea level but a gentle southern breeze fluttered in and melted the “fairy dust” as I have recently heard it referred to.  I am appreciating that it has left quietly and without a trace.

Spring translates into rebirth and renewal for me.  The miserable snow is gone and the sun is producing life-giving heat.  Maybe not enough to warm your bones but possibly just enough to crisp your face, especially if it’s reflecting back from those sheets of ice that still cling to the lake surfaces for those of you in the Yukon!  Here in the Harbour the rays are bouncing back from a sparkling ocean.

Renewal aboard Audrey means removal of old paint and varnish and strange green things that have grown up over the winter.  When we first bought our boat a fern grew in the windowsill on the dash beside the gauges at the helm.  I have tried to nurture and maintain a healthy looking fern through out a Yukon winter with difficulty and the fact that this wonderful piece of greenery simply and routinely chose our boat for its home was to me a wondrous gift.

The Captain ripped it out by its tender little roots and proudly displayed it to me trophy like…he could not comprehend the look of horror on my face, as my only ever volunteer houseplant lay mutilated in his hands.  The fern has returned every spring since and I now pluck the beautiful parasite from the sill.  Plant growth causes wood to deteriorate.

The captain is in the “troll hole” changing filters and maintaining his perfect Perkins engines, his engine room gleams white with cleanliness.  Payback for the time he spends in the engine room is that we can turn the keys on Audrey at any time and the engines roar to life. The lines are cast off and there could be a new adventure in the making.  Crossing Dixon Entrance or battling giant waves, the Perkins engines have never failed us due to his time and care.

I am the sander/painter.  One of our inside jokes is that Rick is a welder and yet he possesses a wooden boat and is allergic to sawdust. Yes, I know that an allergy specialist should certify this.  I love doing the work it is gratifying to bring back the shine on the bright work and Audrey starts to pose in the sunshine as the grime of winter is washed away.

Lying on the teak decks with the heat of the afternoon sunshine on your shoulders is almost perfect.  Having a brush full of Tung oil and being able to smooth it out over the mahogany planks and expose the beautiful colour and grain of the wood: well with that and the G U elevens (Newfie for gull) serenading me, this is just plain heaven. I will take this over having to work inside any day.

The forecast for this Easter weekend is that temperatures should rise to 17c with sunshine all day long.  It is already 6c at 7 a.m. so I’m thinking that we will beat that forecast today.

The hot tub is already in the water and will be floating in the sea beside the dock again today.  We had a visitor the first night that we had the hot tub back in the sea.  There was woofing and barking and much carrying on in water.  The sound combined with the slapping of waves against the dock was causing us to wonder what was in the water with us.  We could not determine whether it was a curious sea lion or a sea otter checking us out in the dark.

‘Damned tourists keeping him awake at night,’ is what I suppose he is thinking.  I just didn’t want whatever was thrashing around in the ocean to join us in the much warmer hot tub.  The gulls fly over the tub and seem to do a double take and come back for another look.  I’m thinking we look like soup.

Spring is signalled in Pender Harbour by the white sails of the sailing clubs rounding Skardon Islands. These Islands mark the inside entrance to Pender Harbour.  The Islands   create the perfect course for sea trials for the sailboats.  These boats gracefully do figure eights around each other, Ocean going ballerinas.  The white sails are billowing like sheets on a line against a backdrop of a deep Blue Ocean and the soft green of the cedars.

This winter we were fortunate enough to participate in a Match cup sailboat race in Auckland, New Zealand.  I had never sailed before and wanted to experience the “other” boating style.   A sailboat race was the perfect birthday gift promised for a significant birthday; although I had never expected it to happen in New Zealand.  We were racing with the ’95 New Zealand Americas Cup contender.

The saying goes something like ‘a bad boating day is a great sailing day’.  Well after all of the extreme boating weather that we’d been through I figured that if you can’t beat the weather you might as well learn how to use it.  IT WAS WONDERFUL!  It’s like flying over the water, the 25knot winds filling the huge sails to the limits, creaking ropes, the hiss of the water racing by, I loved it…so now what to do?  So many choices.  The Captain took the helm during the race and I thought he suited it very well.

I have to trek up to the Grasshopper Pub in the Pender Harbour Hotel to hit a hot spot to email this storey off.  Zipping over by zodiac to the Copper Sky café in Madeira Park is another great place to have a coffee and a chat with Scottie and the boys while the email heats up.  But it’s a tough place to get out of and the afternoon will be biting at my heels by the time we are inspired to leave.  The Grasshopper Pub wins out as the communication point of choice.  The view is remarkable and I have been watching the hillside for the resident doe and this year’s fawn.  The climb to the pub is extreme, but the chances of seeing the fawn are very good.

Daffodils show sunny faces on the hillside as I climb skyward to the Grasshopper.  They are flashing yellow smiles throughout Madeira Park and Garden Bay.  Primroses offer brilliant colours in unexpected places.  The Easter Bunny will have to look for these special spots to hide her Easter Eggs.  The Easter Bunny hops into Pender Harbour as well as Marsh Lake, Yukon Jianna Mia.

From my crow’s nest on the deck above the marina, I can see the tide churning out of Gunboat Bay at a hard-boil.  When she winds up the tide runs at about 5 knots, and with the wind whipping against her it creates a small rapid.   The deceptive Woman of the Sea, at slack tide the waters are placid and create the illusion of perfect moorage. There have been a few unwary sea goers who have dropped anchor here; everyone makes an effort to warn them that they will probably be swept away at tide change. Few ever spend the night; there are nice people here. The benefits of fast water are that it flushes the bay and keeps everything sparkling clean.  It also helps to prevent growth from forming on your boat’s bottom and no one wants growth on his or her bottom.

Across the harbour is Garden Bay the serious transients are already arriving.  Three sailboats have dropped anchor and set up house keeping there.  By mid summer you could possibly walk across on the decks of boats anchored in the harbour.

A warm breeze is wafting the perfume from budding willows leaves and cedar and fir trees growing in loamy rich soil across the deck.  The air is always salty; the clouds drift by in a deep blue sky.  I can see the doe directly below me and what could be last year’s fawn, or maybe its a doe friend and they are out for a walk together, no new baby as of yet, its late in arriving as well.  The tinkle of ice cubes in a tall glass while sitting out on a deck overlooking the Ocean is THE most definite sign of spring.  Happy Easter everyone.

P.S.  Bob and Kait I hope you have a wonderful Easter, you should be here…love from your mommy.