With the spring sun starting to tease us, it's my last chance to post this before we're all out enjoying summer sailing. So, while we still have some wintry nights I hope you'll enjoy the photos and at least endure the writing.
First, a bit of background information: In the 1950's, the aluminum company Alcan dammed the Nechako River in central BC, flooding numerous lakes and rivers and reversed the whole system right up into the coastal mountains, where they drilled through a mountain and installed a subterranean power station to provide electricity to their new Kitimat smelter. The resulting reservoir is actually navigable in a complete circle route of about 200 miles by using a short railway portage and shooting some minor rapids. It's also extremely remote - I saw no more than one other boat on any day. Here is a google map of the area so you can get an idea where this is.
Second: the map. Click on it for a full size view. Depending on your browser it may get resized to fit your window - just click on it and it should zoom in to actual size so you can read things.
And with no further ado, I present a Nechako Adventure:
I’d been driving for days through sweltering sun and the rain had just begun.
Hurrying about, my rain gear was uncomfortably warm as I prepared my boat for a trip into the far ends of the wilderness. In this moment, with a flood of accomplishment as the keel of my fine ship touched the lake waters, years of dreaming were realized. These years weren’t spent idle, either.
I built one boat: a fine, sleek sailing canoe. Inspired by Fenger’s adventures in a similar craft among remote Caribbean islands, I pictured travelling around the continent, canoe atop my car, exploring wide reaching lands and waters as I found them. Reality or clouds of doubt intervened: my boat was too small, too extreme and too hard to handle, and I hadn’t nearly enough time besides.
The next year I convinced myself that I just needed a bigger boat - something proven. Yet more countless hours were spent slaving away building the next boat. All the time the dreams of adventure kept me going; surfing among tremendous seas as my fine craft carried me onward, ever onward, to glorious sights.
At long last I was afloat, in a boat provisioned for wherever my journey might take me and for whatever trials might befall me. Awkward and hot wrapped up in rain gear, I started to pull at the oars as the rain rolled off my hood and broke the otherwise glassy surface of the water. Above me the treetops waved gently, hinting at what was waiting for me beyond the shelter of this bay. Slowly, steadily, the boat and I made our way along the long and winding channel, into a larger cove, and onward into a yet larger bay. At last, with the wide expanse of the lake just beyond the point, I set the boat hove-to and rigged the sails.
A voyaging boat is an efficient machine. All the lines are led just so and everything is rigged to work just when you need it. All this smooth efficiency falls apart as soon as the boat is laid up and the long trailer trip to this northern lake had been ruthlessly thorough. The centerboard jammed. Foolishly, I’d used a wooden wedge to keep it rattling endlessly on the drive up but that constant vibration had shaken it loose and now it was wedged halfway down the trunk. As I said, the boat was provisioned for any eventuality, so with a fork and spoon I managed to fish out the offending wedge and solve the problem. Tweaks here, searching for a line there, and eventually everything was shipshape and ready to set sail.
As I reached the open lake the glassy calm of the inner bay gradually morphed into small waves, pleasantly rolling from the west. I trimmed the sails tight and lept over waves, sailing full and by, across the lake. A quick tack and I was headed back for the opposite shore. Back and forth, the boat seemed to be leaping with joy and light on her feet among the waves. Shakily at first, I quickly accustomed myself to trimming the sails, anticipating the rolls, and working in unison with all of nature’s forces. Urged onward by the steady breeze we finally reached an enticing island. A long sandy spit promised a comfortable tent site, and the lee of the island would shelter the boat overnight.
Sea to Sky Highway, between Whistler and Lillooet
First taste of the lake
This lake looks bigger than it did on the map