Garden Bay Outstation and the Harmony Islands

From Alexandra Island, we motor sailed to Seattle Yacht Club Outstation at Garden Bay.  We had a green box get together after the Skipper’s Meetings, which was so nice, a club house with hot showers and a great place to mingle and meet other cruisers.

Garden Island, Seattle Yacht Club Outstation

On Thursday, we headed to the Harmony Islands en route to Princess Louisa Inlet. These islands are masses of granite, with forest going up from the waterline.  Anchoring was a considered exercise because the water is so deep here. Canadian yachting said nearby Hotham Sound was 2,200 ft deep. A glacier had etched the islands out of granite mountains.

Once anchored, everyone (except the photographer) went for a swim and there were a few squeals at the 17 C degree water.

Cold, but all smiles

The skippers meeting was a cosy get-together with all hands, on the Starship- Malaika raft up, to discuss the next days journey up to Princess Louisa inlet and strategies for crossing the rapids and enjoying the wine.

Strategic Discussions

Seals kept their distance but continued to fish and as the sun lowered on the horizon, we went back to Enchanted to enjoy the sunset.

Harmony Islands, BC



Outstation Welcome

At Alexandra Island, we  Aussie and other guests, quickly became aware of how hospitable our hosts were. Yachts came into the pontoon over the next several hours, with the first order of business being a Green box. In the parlance of the Pacific Northwest, a green box seems to be a combination of Aussie BYOB and maybe a Greek meze.  In Australia, we meet on our boats most often but at the Outstations, we could all congregate on the dock.

Pam and Chuck Lowry and Val and John Robertson co-chaired our ICOYC Cruise and the amount of effort both couples had put in was patently evident. The main event at our Green box was Pam awarding all the boats their own windsock. There was a story to every windsock and there was no doubt how much work had gone into it.

Pam awarding Windsocks


Enchanted crew walked on the island’s paths and visited the small pavilion. The views were  also lovely from the top of the hill. 

The next morning, we were off to the Harmony Islands, with half the ICOYC group and two capable Captains to make sure we all arrived. But tonight we were all eating steaks underneath the Northern stars.

Outstations, Orcas and Seals

On the ICOYC cruise, the most remarkable club facilities were the amazing outstations. I am not aware of any Australian yacht club having a camping-gathering facility in another nearby waterway. The outstations we visited belonged to either the Royal Vancouver and Seattle Yacht Clubs. They were an incredible resource to the flotilla cruise. Here is a photo of Alexandra Island, a small island, 18 nautical miles NNW of the Royal Vancouver home port of  Jericho, with very little infrastructure but 1200 feet of dock space. There are walking trails, a open air pavilion and picnic tables.

Alexandra Island

On the eastern shore there is a drying reef, with logs laid up against the reef, so no one would sail into it. When you are on the top of the island looking down, the eastern shore is on your right and the dock space is on your left. The tiny bay looks much like a letter  U.

When we arrived people told us to hurry, Orcas were swimming on the far Eastern shore. We jumped off the boat and could see Orca’s in the distance. Then we heard about the afternoon’s events.

This blog is reporting an amalgamation of eye witness accounts, including one mention of “Never in my 35 years of visiting Alexandra Island, have I ever witnessed Orcas or seals at Alexandra Island. To say that everyone who saw the sight was stunned by what transpired.

The photos were taken by another flotilla member, Jan Horhammer. Jan was gracious enough to allow me to use his photos to give you an idea of what occurred.

photo by Jan Horhammer

When some of the early yachts arrived, there were a number of seals sunning themselves on the logs. The seals were far enough away from the dock to be unconcerned by the yachts and a few people swimming off the dock*.

photo by Jan Horhammer

Suddenly a large Orca swam near the dock, before ramming the inside of the logs, which saw several of the seals dive off out of reach. They seemed to think they had escaped the Orca. What they didn’t know was the rest of the family were just around the corner.

Photo by Jan Horhammer

We did see a seal in the shallows but there was no evidence of the carnage that had taken place. The Orcas were just out for a bite of lunch.

Photo by Jan Horhammer

* A recent article mentioned transient Orca pods are more likely to be looking for seals. Orca populations from the BC-Seattle area feed on Chinook salmon.

Starting the Enchanted Cruise

We know, the word cruise is getting a bit overused this trip. Today we are talking about the ICOYC Cruise, co-hosted by Royal Vancouver Yacht Club (Royal Van) and the Seattle Yacht Club. (Both are absolutely splendid, welcoming hosts.) This cruise is a flotilla of yachts, motoring sailing in the splendid waters of the British Columbia Sunshine Coast.

Our yacht, S/Y Enchanted was indeed the best charter on the cruise, as far as we could assess. Her crew is Jill, Robbie, David, John, James and Gaila.

We collected Enchanted in Nanaimo, sailing the next day to Vancouver to meet the two other Aussie Yachts and 23 other yachts with crew from Canada (Royal Vancouver Yacht Club), the US (Seattle Yacht Club & St Francis Yacht Club), Great Britain and sailors from Japan, Finland and Germany.

The Enchanted Crew
This photo is with John

On day one, we start the never ending provisioning. On day two, we leave for Vancouver, we are berthed in the Quayside Marina at Yalestown. Great place to catch the ferry or catch up with our friend Simon, who lives in Vancouver.

We have a meet and greet at the Royal Van, and hear what the next ten days have in store for us. The best part of this flotilla is meeting people from all over and enjoying new places together.

Two Aussie Crews @ Royal Van

The lanyards round our necks, had our names, yachts, clubs and the complete schedule on the back. When you consider we were going to a possible total of seventeen Outstations and several other anchorages, having a calendar was a brilliant idea.

Meeting lovely new friends

The Royal Van at Jericho put on a lovely drinks on the deck and canapes in the dining room. By the end of the evening, everyone was relaxed and ready to start the next adventure.

Aussie Confab

Tomorrow we will talk about the Outstations.

Saying goodbye to the Sojourn and saying hello to Enchanted

James and I loved cruising Alaska and British Columbia. We loved catching up with new friends and old. Fun and excitement were on the cards every day. On our way back to Vancouver, Gaila had a great time answering the often asked: “So will you fly straight home?” with “Now we are going sailing”.

Crew Farewell to the passengers


We were able to walk right off the ship on the 31st August and into Vancouver. A few texts alerted us to the fact that our friends had arrived and we would go to Nanaimo to collect S/Y Enchanted the next morning.

James in Vancouver

The ICOYC (International Council of Yacht Clubs) began a Cruise of the Canadian Sunshine Coast co-hosted by the Royal Vancouver and Seattle Yacht Clubs. We were looking forward to visiting the Royal Van and several outstations. We are looking forward Princess Louisa inlet and the Chatterbox Falls and discovering what Outstations are. There are three boats of Australians, we know it will be a wonderful ten days.

We are about to start the second chapter of this vacation.

Prince Rupert, 28 August

The Sojourn sailed into to Prince Rupert on the 28th August. Sandy and Gaila were not sure our visits would coincide, so it was a surprise when we received a text saying hello.

It was very foggy, rainy and visibility was low, so the ship’s fog horn blowing as we came up the channel. The noise woke Ric up and he said we are having breakfast come up to the Crest hotel. It was right next to the dock, so we walked up prepared for the 5 minutes in the mist.

On the way up to the hotel, we passed the Museum of Northern BC.  This post and beam building isn’t Corinthian. The beams are massive. The museum itself is created to resemble a Northwest Coast longhouse. The artifacts are incredible.

Ric, James, giant beam and ancient totem


The masks and artifacts are handsome. There are weavings, capes made of maarten skins and walrus whiskers. Buttons are incorporated into the weaving and made of mother of pearl. This red mask might have given you pause on a misty evening.

Ceremonial mask

Afterwards, Sandy wants to go for a walk in the pouring rain. She is serious. She has an umbrella. She shows us the trail map. The rain is getting heavier.

We go back to the Soujourn and find our raincoats and umbrellas and change to our mud shoes.  Walking past the Port Edward waterfront, past the entire industrial waterfront and then on a path, at the end we will find a restaurant. The industrial waterfront goes on for quite a ways, the trail is the old goods train line that has been converted to a hiking trail. When we finally got to the trail head, the outlook was gorgeous and large bridges made the trail easy to traverse.

Still, it was raining.

strollin’ in the rain

The restaurant at the end of the journey had every appearance of being closed. Luckily for us, it was open and had the best French dip sandwich in Canada.

We return to the dock and we are getting used to the incessant rain, so we go and look for the Sunken Gardens, a small two story gardens near the courthouse. This rain means the Sunken Gardens are lush, even in late summer.

Prince Rupert, the Sunken Gardens

We will be meeting up with Ric and Sandy in September in Vancouver, but it’s great to catch up in Prince Rupert, BC.  Even in the rain.

Alert Bay, British Columbia

The Sojourn is still in the Inside Passage, but now we are in British Columbia, Canada.  We were on track to reach Klemtu but it was totally fogged in. Incredibly it was mistier than Misty Fjord. Our excursion there was cancelled and the Captain took us to Ocean Falls, Canada. We are the second cruise ship to visit the harbour of Ocean Falls, I hope someone has updated Wikipedia.

Seals sunning on the floating breakwater – Ocean Falls

This was an unexpected destination and many Canadians were very excited. Ocean Falls had been a very busy town but it is shrinking because it has lost its industry.

Our next destination was Alert Bay, a small settlement on Cormorant Island. We were delighted to wake up to a clear blue-sky morning, just a bit of chill to the air. and watched as Sojourn anchored off the town. Our orange Zodiac took us to the pier, where we all cleared customs on the dock. They counted us off and then counted us back on.

Alert Bay

Alert Bay excited us with eagles. A parent eagle, almost rolling its eyes at the incessant cries for food by the juvenile.

Bald Headed Eagle

The juvenile was larger and noisier than the adult. It takes two to four years for the juvenile to develop a white head. While young they are very dark shades of mottled grays, maybe as a form of camouflage.


Alert Bay is the home of many First Nation Namgis peoples, the local cemetery is sacred with old tombstones and totem poles. Captain George Vancouver visited in the late 1700. The First Nation Namgis people used Cormorant Island as a sacred ground to bury their dead. Their cemetery full of totems and headstones, right on the waterfront.

The Harbour is full of fishing boats and the foreshore is home to gigantic logs washed into the harbour on a high tide and fishing boats on the dry. Orcas must visit and feature into their folklore. They speak about Orca Dreaming.

Orca Totem


Misty Fjords

Living in California meant I was lucky enough to visit Yosemite and learn about the noted naturalist, John Muir. He visited Misty Fjords and compared the area with Yosemite.  Glaciers gouged deep U-shaped channels in the granite.

Eddystone Rock

George Vancouver was an early European explorer, in 1793. He discovered Eddystone Rock, a volcanic plug 72 metres tall. This column of basalt heralds our entrance into the Misty Fjords. Compared to the sharp sunny day we had in Wrangell, Misty Fjords are very soft-focused. Clouds spill down the mountains and obscure the connection of land and water. It is a dream like space enveloped in mist.


We anchored in amongst pines and eagles, reveling in the other worldliness of the Misty Fjords.

Wrangell – the biggest little town in Alaska

Hands up if you knew Wrangell is the third-largest city in the US by land area (2,541 square miles), with a population of about 2,500 people.

We simply could not pass up on the opportunity to show you sunny Alaska photos.

Wrangell Sunday morning sunshine

We came north from Ketchikan and had a quiet day in Wrangell.  We walked up past totems and churches to Volunteer Park.  A gorgeous park, which is tended by Wrangell volunteers, so we expected to see see people out in the sunshine but in Volunteer Park we saw only bald eagles soaring overhead and at every green forested corner or boggy muskeg, we would shout out “Hey, Bear”. We did consider that we may have missed the ‘there are bears in Volunteer Park, give it a miss this weekend’ notice.  Every rustle in the woods would inspire us to chat away. We did not want to startle a bear.

Muskeg is an Alaskan bog, comprised of sphagnum moss and decomposing plant materials. Muskeg can hold up to 30 times its weight in water. The bog slows and captures spring floods and rain allowing the moisture to release slowly in drier conditions. Great country for beavers, but we didn’t see any. Only eagles and one little brown bird with a bit of red, that hid as soon as we appeared.

The Wrangell museum was splendid, one of our favorites. Considering the area Wrangell was in has been governed by four nations and three flags, the museum weaves through the artifacts left by Tlingit, Russian, English and US settlers. Wrangell was a major supply center for the Klondike Gold rush.

There were also Asian artifacts which show both Japanese and Chinese came looking for glory and riches.


One thing we loved about the town, was that everyone seemed to have a small green house in their yard, to start their vegetables before the ground was thawed.

We enjoyed Wrangell, Alaska’s Hidden Jewel.

Catching Up in Ketchikan

What a surprise! We strolled down the gangway and see Sandy, Sarah, Ric and David waving to us. They had been able to see the Sojourn docking and they came over to meet us.

Ric & Sandy in front of Uncruise

We went over to see their ship, the Uncruise which was much more of an expedition ship, smaller – only 76 passengers and with even more toys than the Sojourn. The Salts went to the ferry to make their connections to Denali and the four of us went to explore Ketchikan and find coffee.

Of all of the Alaskan towns James and I visited, Ketchikan was the one that looked like you could live there. Very hilly, so many of the houses had a view. Many kindly locals would say as you walk up the hill: “Make noise, there is a Mama Bear around”.

Creek Street, Ketchikan


It is no wonder the bears were nearby, because the salmon were running. We walked up to Creek Street and watched the salmon in their struggle to go upstream, with insistent interference from a friendly little harbour seal trying to catch his lunch.

We followed the road up the stream to watch the different varieties of salmon on their way to spawn. By the time the salmon are this far along they have shed their scales and soon arrive at the natal stream. Wikipedia says that salmon are a keystone species, as the nutrients in their carcasses are transferred from the ocean to both wildlife and riparian woodlands near the ocean. The female salmon searches for the gravel bed of her youth and uses her tail to create a depression, called a redd. She will lay up to 5000 eggs and then continue upstream before moving on to make another redd. This usually happens about seven times. After spawning, they quickly die and the owners of a house located on the stream say the putrid rotting fish smell lasts for about two months.

Salmon Run

Some males will develop humps, before they travel upstream. The hump attracts the sight of the bears, hoping to protect the females and the roe. They also develop teeth to fend off other salmon from trying to fertilise their eggs. You do see the males fighting in the streams. Some local children told me they were zombie salmon. Bears will eat salmon only before they lay their eggs.

We walked from the stream up to the Ketchikan Totem Heritage Center, with beautiful First Nation artifacts. The pre-19th century totem poles are one of the largest collections of unrestored totem poles, found at abandoned villages. They have other crafts on display like this ceremonial robe and new totem pole.

Ceremonial Robes – buttons and red colour indicate it was made after first contact.
Modern totem pole

Next stop, Wrangell.



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