March 2 to March 21, 2017 - Butedale to Port Hardy, BC
During our stay in Butedale, it snowed every day. The scenery was superb, but we were a little discouraged to see so much snow. On some days, we received up to two feet of snow during the day and another foot at night.
We stayed 10 nights in Butedale. We had not planned to stay for so long. The wait was pleasant, however. Jasmine and Buddy have become very good friends. Both were eager to play together in the morning. Jasmine cried to go outside. When Jasmine was inside, Buddy came to the balcony of the house and cried for Jasmine to come out to play. The dynamics between the two were nice to observe. I believe that their stay together has been beneficial for both.
On our side, we had the pleasure of getting to know more about Cory. A beautiful friendship has been created. What an extraordinary and generous person! Cory is curious and resourceful. He is also a great nature enthusiast. We visited every day. Cory also gave us food, for our provisions became low. We were expecting a food resupply in Bella Bella. We were far from expecting that it would take so long to cover the 250km between Kitimat and Bella Bella.
Pierre and Cory cut and split wood between snowfalls. They also cleared the trail linking the facilities near the shore to the two houses. A task that had to be done several times a day. They also restarted the generator so that it could generate electricity again. When we arrived at Butedale, Cory had to use an auxiliary generator. He had only two days left of fuel for his generator. The cold days and nights froze the source supplying the water to the generator. Happy was Cory when this problem was solved!
I had the leisure to spend a lot of time writing. My inspiration was at its full potential. The place was so quiet and there were very few distractions. The constantly changing colours, the light, the big snowflakes falling, the mountains in the distance when the visibility increased ... In this bay, nature seemed to change at every moment. Cory told us that several people asked him if he found it boring to see the same landscape everyday. His answer has always remained the same since his very first day here: "Every minute, the scenery changes. It's never the same." We agree with him. I took a ton of pictures. The seals came every day into the bay. The scenery changed with the tides. Really beautiful!
On the day of our departure, Thursday March 9, there was sunshine. The sun had not yet touched Butedale Lake when we embarked in the canoe. Thanks to Cory, we will have beautiful images filmed with the drone. Cory's fingers must have frozen by the end of the filming session. We knew we would miss Cory and Buddy. We were all together for a long period of time. Thank you Cory for everything !!!
We had only two beautiful days to paddle and cover the distance, before the weather would turn bad again. We made a plan the day before to get to Bella Bella as soon as possible. We were expected for a presentation at the school and we also needed our supplies. So we went into "evacuation" mode rather than "pleasure" mode paddling. The timing with the tides was perfect. Pierre had made good calculations so that we could take advantage, as much as possible, from the lowering tide. The sun warmed us well. The snow was still heavy on the trees and the mountains were covered with a heavy white blanket. We saw the mist of whale's breath in the distance, going in the same direction as we were. Unfortunately, we never managed to catch up with them. Towards the end of the day, the wind began to blow strongly. The waves had intensified. Quickly, conditions deteriorated and became difficult. It was time for us to land in the small bay located 12 km from Klemtu, on Sarah Island. When we turned the corner, the wind pushed us off. The wind gained strength from the valley and was blowing, at least, at 60 km/h. It was cold. We stopped on the pebble beach. The tide was low but had just begun to rise again. We made a long portage into the forest. By the time the tent was up, it was dark. We ate quickly and went to take refuge inside our home. That night, we slept very little. The wind continued to blow for about an hour before we got up. We were tired from the day before. Jasmine was also tired. We had managed to cover 60 km.
It was an easy launch that morning. The tide was high and the water just at our feet. Less than ten paces and we had our feet in the water. It was sunny and warmer. In fact, that day was nicer than the previous one. The water was translucent and calm. The bay was very beautiful at high tide. We could see far below the surface of the water. We started a final crossing to position ourselves on the same side as Klemtu. We took our time and followed the coast. We had time in front of us. A lot of time! Our plan was to take the ferry departing from Klemtu on Saturday morning at 3:30. This ferry was going to take us to Bella Bella.
When we arrived in Klemtu, it was 1:30 p.m. We grabbed something to eat and protected ourselves from the wind near the rocks forming a ramp used by the Regent tugboat barge. After lunch, we emptied the canoe and then a crowd of people arrived. There was a fundraiser so that the young people of the village could attend a basketball tournament. The method of fudraising was a polar swim. We were frozen, and seeing those good people coming in and out of the water, made us enjoy our clothes. The deckhand of the Regent decided to take part in the activity. The auction went up to $105. From the barge, he plunged into the water with his short pants. The most surprising thing was to see him continue to work after, without changing his clothes! A brave, and especially very generous man. Then we met with Sid, the Captain of the Regent. We had a full tour of the tugboat. It is very well maintained. Pierre has had a dream ever since he was very young, to ride in a tugboat. Well, Sid offered us a ride. Since we had already planned to travel to Bella Bella by ferry and had our resupply coming and a presentation to give, Sid offered to pick us up when we were ready to board. We would make the trip down to Port Hardy. You cannot imagine how excited Pierre was. He couldn't stop smiling.
After we left Sid, and before darkness settled down for good, we started walking towards the ferry terminal. It was a walk of two kilometres on a clear road (despite all the snow they received in Klemtu). Once we got there, we changed, and put on all our warm clothes in anticipation of a long night waiting outside. Then Andrew, Fred and Evan came to see us. They brought us two plates full of warm food. Shortly thereafter, they came back to open the terminal building. We could, therefore, wait inside in a heated and sheltered place. It was 7:30 p.m. We had met Andrew previously, while we were still on the water's edge. He told us that he would watch over us. Well, he kept his promise. It is always so surprising how strangers are willing to help us. This is part of the beauty of the world. We also noticed that everyone in Klemtu seems to be helping each other, no matter the age. We were really delighted to see the fraternity of the people and the sense of community.
Later, the two men in charge of the terminal came to see us. After explaining that Andrew had opened the door, they gave us their permission to stay in the terminal building. We tried to sleep, but no luck. Pierre helped to clear the sidewalks before the ferry arrived. Jasmine, she seems not to worry about anything. She really trusts us!
Then, about 2:30 on Saturday morning, the ferry finally arrived. Pierre was still talking to me about tugboats, but he was happy, at last, to embark on the ferry. We left the canoe with the vehicles on the lower deck level and then had to put Jasmine in a cage on the same floor. The cages are very clean and well installed. We went up to the upper floors where we sat in a quiet place. There were plenty of people who had brought their sleeping bags and mattress to sleep in the aisles. We were the only ones without sleeping bags and mattress. So we did not sleep.
We arrived at Bella Bella around 6:30 a.m., 30 minutes before the scheduled time. It was still dark. We started asking people about the best way to get to Denny Island, where Shearwater is located. It is right in front of Bella Bella, where we planned to stay. Cory had recommended us to stay there and made contact with the hotel management (Keith and Joanne). There was a water taxi in Bella Bella, but it was located 4 km from our position. The roads were snowy and not cleared. That option was therefore not adopted. Weather forecasts indicated strong northeasterly winds throughout the day (up to 80km/h in late morning), so there was no way for us to paddle. Then we learned that another ferry from Bella Coola would arrive the next night. We could board it and go to Shearwater. We opted for this solution, much more logical and safe, given the wind and our state of advanced fatigue. So we pitched our tent near the terminal. Once inside, it began to snow. Then the snow changed to rain. It rained so, so much. We tried to sleep, but again, did not really succeed. At 10:30 p.m., in the rain, we packed up our camp and prepared the canoe for the next leg of the journey. At 2:30 a.m. we finally boarded the ferry (much smaller than the previous one). The journey was short. Using our headlamps, we pulled the canoe on a slushy road to the hotel. A key was already waiting for us in an envelope at the front desk. We emptied the canoe, carried everything to the room, took our showers and went to bed around 6:00 (or 5:00 before the time change). We slept an hour and a half before we had breakfast at the restaurant. The grocery store was closed and we were not up to oatmeal again.
After taking the time to rest in the afternoon and do laundry, we finally met with Keith and Joanne, the hotel managers. They offered us a very warm welcome and helped us a lot. Keith even provided us with a warm place to dry our equipment. We also met Caroline and Paul, a lovely couple from Holland. They have been living on their sailboat for 10 years now and have sailed around the globe. They are adept at more remote locations and have even spent time in Antarctica. We had a lot of fun with them. Their next destination was Butedale. They had to bring supplies to Cory. On Monday evening, we wished them safe travels, as they were leaving early the next day.
On Tuesday, we finally received our box by the mail. What a relief! If the box had not arrived by ferry during the weekend, which had just ended, it would have arrived the following week with the next ferry. In winter, there is only one ferry per week between Port Hardy and Prince Rupert. The post travels with the ferry.
On Wednesday, we gave a presentation at the Bella Bella Community School. It was very pleasant to meet the students. Here people travel by boat. There is a water taxi that connects Shearwater and Bella Bella. The shuttle runs practically every hour. Then on Thursday night, just before the karaoke, we gave a presentation at the Shearwater Resort & Marina restaurant and bar. We had a very pleasant evening and we met lots of people. Several faces, now familiar, were present for the occasion. The community of Shearwater is unique and great.
Later that night, we packed our luggage, as we had confirmation that Sid and his team were going to pick us up during the night. Pierre was so, so looking forward to being on the tugboat. It seemed like he was 5 years old, and it was Christmas Eve! On the tablet, I found an application that allowed us to track the boat's movement. Pierre must have damaged his eyes as they were glued to the tablet. Around 11:00 p.m. we finally went to bed. At 3:00 a.m. on Friday morning, we were already up. Pierre had not slept at all, and I did not sleep much. The night was very short. The Regent had not moved over the last nine hours, according to the information on the tablet. Pierre was worried, me.....not so much. I was sure it was only a transmission problem. Sid had said he would come. I had confidence. We emptied the room, put our gear in the canoe and walked up to the ramp. It was raining a lot and very windy. The wind made us worry. The gusts were too strong to paddle, especially at night. Once the canoe was ready, we paddled to the Fuel dock. Sid was already communicating with us by texting, then via the VHF. We saw the first sign of the strong light of the tugboat in a distance as she came closer. Our worries increased with the gusts. We could not take the risk of paddling, and at the same time, we did not want to give up on Sid (who had to divert his route to pick us up). But Sid had already realized that we would not be able to reach him. With agility and great coordination, he detached his barge and fixed it to the wall breakwater. Then he came and picked us up directly at the Fuel dock. We jumped into the tugboat and tied the canoe. We went up to the barge where the canoe was lifted using the barge ramp that had been lowered into the water. Scott, Sid's deckhand, is very agile. With one hand he held himself on the inclined ramp, despite the waves and the wind, he passed the rope that was fixed to the prow of the canoe on the other side of the ramp cable. What a relief when we saw the canoe arrive to the height of the barge floor. The canoe was fixed on deck and we returned to the boat. After reattaching the barge to the tugboat to pull it, we left for Klemtu. We couldn’t believe all the effort Sid and his team had gone through to pick us up! They went to a lot of trouble. Sid is really a generous man, with a big heart. Scott and Jon went to bed. They had just finished their shift.
I had a good time with Sid and Pierre at the helm, before going for a nap. When I woke up, everyone was awake. Jon was preparing breakfast. Pierre was still as excited. He was realizing his dream! We went through a passage where the sea was a little more hectic. Jasmine did not like this experience, but nevertheless, she behaved like a champion. Then, the last leg to Klemtu was calm.
Once the barge was installed and ready to be emptied, Scott took a seat in the truck and began to pull out the empty trailers. Later he went the opposite way to place four trailers back on the barge, full of farmed salmon. Sid, and the Regent, ride twice a week between Klemtu and Port Hardy. The farmed salmon industry employs a lot of workers on the coast. We were very fortunate to have been able to attend some of the marine operations of Marine Harvest.
We had to wait until the last refrigerated trailer was filled before leaving. We had the pleasure of spending time talking with Sid. What a great man! What a career! Already 40 years working on the water. His maritime knowledge is vast and he shares it without reserve. He had the chance to work with his two sons, at one time, on the tugboat. His father was a halibut fisherman. His reputation still prevails today from Vancouver to Alaska. Sid is also known by all. In Shearwater, everyone knew him. He is an excellent captain and his reputation precedes him.
We did not leave Klemtu until 8 p.m. that evening. When we left, it was dark. The operation to move the barge and reattach the cable to pull it was so quick and calm, that we hardly had time to realize that we were already heading for Port Hardy. After having a delicious dinner prepared by Jon, we spoke with everyone as they worked on their tasks. Then the start of the watch was resumed. Pierre went to bed at the same time as Sid. Scott took the helm and Jon was with him. Jasmine kept her position in the cockpit. She had claimed a bench and had put her name on it. The night was relatively calm. In the early hours, Sid returned to the command post. Pierre accompanied him. Scott and Jon went to bed. Later in the day, near Cape Caution, the waves and swells resumed. Sid told us that it was rare to see the sea as lenient. And yet, to me, it was moving a lot. Jasmine was much more comfortable and quiet. She acclimatizes so quickly.
The sun pierced through in places and the waves crashed against the rocks creating explosions that made walls of water appear in different places. These "walls of water" were so high and were to be seen everywhere. They could even be seen from afar.
Then.....a big boom was heard and felt!. The steel cable had broken! The barge floated off in the distance! Pierre went to wake up Scott, and Sid quickly notified the traffic while setting course towards the barge. Jon had less experience than Scott, so Sid kept Jon aboard the tugboat. Scott embarked on the barge to fix a spare cables. All this happened in a rough sea. Sid kept his cold sense, despite his concern for Scott. Sid proved to be a good leader in this crucial situation. He trusted Scott and both remained in communication. From the helm, we could see at some point the barge was rocking (just like the boat). Sometimes we saw the barge, then it disappeared before reappearing. I filmed everything. Everything went without a hitch and with great confidence. Pierre went to help as Scott boarded the boat. The replacement cable was attached to the boat and we got on our way.
Getting close to our final destination, the sun reappeared. The scenery was superb. The sun was good. As night came, we arrived in Port Hardy. In a very short time, all the loaded trailers were hauled onto land and replaced by empty ones. That night we slept aboard the Regent, and Jon left for his home.
On Sunday morning, we had breakfast with Scott and Sid. We had a lot of fun spending the day with them. Even if Sunday is a day off but there is a lot to do. Among other things, it was necessary to repair the steel cable before leaving. There was refueling (water and diesel), there was also a lot to do on the boat (usual maintenance) and on the barge. We met Vida, who is the Freight Manager for Shearwater, and her husband Barry. In the evening Sid invited us all to dinner at the restaurant. We ended the evening on the boat. A great day and evening!
Monday morning, it was time for us to say goodbye. But before, we had breakfast again with Scott and Sid. Then Vida helped us to carry our equipment, using her truck, to the hotel. On our way back, we put the canoe in the water (it was still on the barge). With a lot of emotion, we said goodbye to our friends. The Regent left for Klemtu for another trip leaving us in her wake. We then paddled to the hotel with an almost empty canoe. And we reminded ourselves how lucky we are to have experienced this unique adventure.
I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Life ensures that we meet people who will mark our existence and make us evolve in one way or another. You have to know how to seize every opportunity. Our adventure is made of all these unique encounters and all these opportunities we have captured. People are amazing! We have been blessed. Thanks again to Cory, the entire team at Shearwater Resort & Marina, Captain Sid, Scott, Jon, Vida and Barry.