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Thread: A Nechako Adventure

  1. #1
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    Default A Nechako Adventure

    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


    First camp


    This lake looks bigger than it did on the map

  2. #2
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Great so far Andy- keep it coming JayInOz

  3. #3
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Huzzah!! Good job Andy. Looking forward to the rest of the tale.
    Ben Sebens, LPN

  4. #4
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    A Sooty Tern at 2800 ft elevation. Both the water and the air are thinner. I'm looking forward to this . . .
    Alex

    "A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, for he will be going out on a day he shouldn't. We do be afraid of the sea, and we only be drowned now and again" Aran Islands Fisherman

  5. #5
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Now you're talkin' !

  6. #6
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Yay! Moar plz!
    If this post did not meet all of your needs, please consult this thread for more options.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Lovely.
    "A man builds the best of himself into a boat- builds many of the memories of his ancestors." -Steinbeck

  8. #8
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by AJZimm View Post
    Both the water and the air are thinner.
    That thin air must explain why rowing was so much work. Or that's my story at least.



    I was in the depths of proper wilderness, with all the wild animals that might entail. I felt safe enough, but worried that I’d wake one morning to find the boat and food ravaged by wild beasts. My plan was to moor the boat offshore on a continuous “clothesline” loop to the anchor so I could haul her in and out at my leisure. I realize that bears can swim, but I figured that any bear eager enough to smell something, swim to the island, and then out to the boat, probably deserved whatever he might find.

    To this end I had aboard a couple hundred feet of good floating braided line and a large stainless steel ring. I rigged the gear, dropped the anchor, and pulled at the oars. I kept the bitter end of my floating line wrapped around my boot for safekeeping but not even half way back to shore suddenly the boat caught up short with a pull at my leg. Two hundred feet, as it turned out, is not nearly as far in practice as it sounds.
    So, back out to the anchor. I hauled in the line and carefully repacked it in the bag to prevent tangles, then hauled in the anchor and rowed closer to shore. Again, this time just out of reach of the shore I felt the pull at my boot and the whole operation began again.

    By this time I felt I must have been channeling an ancient Scottish fisherman, hauling his lines over the gunwale. I found the thought calming, and the boat certainly expressed no displeasure in being used to haul anchor gear rather than the lively sailing she is more accustomed to.

    Third time I hit the distance right on. Standing on the beach I hauled the boat away from the beach with my clothesline while the tail remained tied to the boat so I could retrieve her in the morning. I was hauling harder and harder when finally I could make no more progress: the line had twisted. Luckily I could still haul the boat back to shore and try again.

    By now the operation was old hat, but this time I ran into a new problem. I was hauling in the anchor only to discover the line was caught under a snag. I’d surveyed the area beforehand but the line had sought the only snag in an otherwise clear lakebed. After some pulling and prodding with an oar I convinced the line to come free, but my joy was short lived. Only a few dozen feet more and the line was once again stuck fast. No amount of prodding or pulling seemed to have any effect. The sun had set and dusk was setting in fast so I decided there was nothing for it but some brisk diving.

    The water was pleasant enough, but underwater with no glasses and no mask I had to work by feel. I struggled to free the line but managed to bring the line from the far side of the snag to the surface. Not wanting to dive again in the increasingly dark evening I pulled all the previously retrieved line back through the snag and continued on. Luckily I was now clear and was thankful to see the bright galvanizing of my trusty Bruce rise to the surface of the now black lake.

    At this point I downgraded food security on the order of priorities and replaced it with simply getting the boat safe for the night. An anchor out and a line ashore to hold her in ankle deep water off the sharp rocky beach seemed secure enough so I warmed a can of soup for dinner and went to sleep.

    Nightfall brings with it a darkness that goes almost unnoticed in normal city life. Life goes on with nothing more than a flick of a switch, and that only if the lights aren’t already on. On the contrary, out here in the wilderness the fall of darkness signals an immediate and stark change. What was only minutes before a vast welcoming wilderness suddenly shrinks to a dark emptiness and there is nothing left to do but sleep.

    ***
    Even as early as it was, the stifling heat in my tent woke me and hurriedly ushered me out into the world. I found a brilliant morning: bright sun warming the land as a gentle northerly breeze stirred. I promptly set about breaking camp and was soon underway with a light but favourable wind. I ghosted down the eastern side of the island with the mainland to port. The main channel ran south on the far side of the island but I wanted to explore the potential of some inshore passages. As I neared the southern end of the island I quickly realized that the inshore passages were impenetrable.

    The water shoaled and all around me snags reached up eerily through the green water; most stopped below the surface but here and there they started to stand proud of the water. Not far ahead whole stands of grey trees held fast against the ravages of age. While my boat is nimble and draws only inches I didn’t want to get caught on an unseen obstruction or find myself entangled in the increasingly thick jungle of ancient forest.
    I made a sharp turn to starboard and headed for the open waters of the central channel. Between me and that freedom I could see dozens of stumps, barely awash, several trees still standing, and I could only imagine what might be lurking beneath the surface. I dropped sail and proceeded under oar, picking my way through the maze.

    I watched as the fallen forest reached up toward me from its watery lake bed; despite the cheerful refraction patterns of the sun the branches retained a spectral air.
    Gradually the forest beneath me faded away into the gloom so, sails set, I continued my leisurely journey south. I stuck to the eastern shore to better admire the wilderness. Truth be told, wilderness is hardly the right word since the most eye catching features were the great swaths of bleached forest, drowned when the valley was flooded half a century ago. In places, the standing trees supported their fallen neighbours, with the resulting tangle giving the distinct appearance of an elephant graveyard.


    The forest looms


    Back in the clear channel


    Drowned forest to port

    I traveled slowly south in a comfortable mix of lazy sailing and lazy rowing. I tried both at once but found it awkward and of minimal benefit so I resigned myself to viewing the show at the pace set by nature.
    In the late afternoon the wind picked up, strong and suddenly from the south. I briefly fought the headwind under oars but passed near a promising looking island that conveniently had a second, even smaller island just offshore. I pictured a handy clothesline set between the two and decided that this was the place to spend the night.

    Happily the clothesline plan worked perfectly this time and I was able to keep the boat moored in the lee of the smaller island and beach of the larger island was steep enough that I could keep the boat afloat but still close enough to shore to step to dry land.

    There was an immediate raw quality apparent in this island. The beaches were formed by sharp edged shards of rock, crumbling from the low cliffs and slowly scattering down into the emerald coloured water. Everything felt new without moss or lichens.

    Inland things felt different. Very different. The island proper felt like an alpine forest complete with scattered pines and wild berries. This was a stark contrast to the watery world I left only steps before, but the entire island was unified in its sharpness. Sharp stones, sharp pine needles, sharp berry vines, and sharp bark. Borrowing inspiration from those who lie on beds of nails, I reclined on the sharp beach and had dinner.


    The island crumbles


    Camped on the island's peak


    Nothing if not stylish.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Excellent writing Andy.
    Ben Sebens, LPN

  10. #10
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Excellent. Love the clarity in those photos too.
    Carpe the living sh!t out of the Diem

    I'd rather look back at my life and say "I can't believe I did that" instead of being there saying "I wish I'd done that"

  11. #11
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Cool!
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    Jagular Goes Everywhere: (mis)Adventures in a $300 Sailboat. Book release November 2014.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Glad you guys are enjoying it. Here we go again...



    I awoke the next morning, in my tent on the island’s peak, to bright sunshine and a flat calm. My boat floated as if set in glass, and the clothesline reached across the channel in a smooth catenary, merging in the middle with its reflection.

    Today would be a day to row.

    After slowly cooking all night a thermos of hot oatmeal saw me on my way. I laid a course to just clear the next point and set to the oars. A compass on the floorboards in front of me kept me tracking straight and before too long I rounded that point and headed for the next. In this constricted section of lake the course changes were pleasantly frequent, with several landmarks passing every hour. As the winding passage opened to a great expanse of lake, apparent progress slowed to a crawl and I aimed for a peak barely visible in the distant haze. Hours, and countless strokes later, I was close under that distant peak. Behind me, earlier points had fallen back into the haze, and my goal for the day now lay just as far ahead. The distant mountains beckoned, as they grew larger and brushed off the haze.

    In open water with precious few points of reference there is very little sensation of progress. The oar blades pull through the water, generating a few clean eddies, then they lift, feather, return, and repeat. The wake rolls steadily outward, unchanging in time.

    I rowed on. No single stroke gave appreciable progress this far from shore but minutes piled into hours and the deep satisfaction of progress began to set in.
    Occasionally a log passes and progress is evident, but progress against the distant features surrounding the lake is more subtle. Trees behind fade slowly, so slowly as to be barely remarkable, until suddenly you turn around and everything changes. That peak in the distance is clear ahead now the nearby trees of the morning are ever so far away.

    I was armoured against the harsh sun by my long sleeves and a canvas hat. Periodically drenching the hat kept me cool and with frequent water breaks the work was hard but pleasant enough; honest work like this provides no shortcuts and doesn’t reward cheats. Efficiency can be optimized by good technique but in the end this is the oldest of battles, man versus the forces of nature.
    Throughout the morning nature rested calmly. I could feel only the wind I generated by my progress, and was thankful for the cooling effect it provided. My wake spread out wide across the lake despite the smooth grace with which the hull slipped through the water.

    As morning turned into afternoon and the blazing sun shifted so as to be not quite so directly overhead, ripples began to spread across the surface. The wind on the back of my neck got stronger; only subtly, and still not enough to sail.

    I rowed on.

    At last ahead of me the mouth of Chikamin Bay was clear of the haze, only a few miles away. The clock passed 3 and for the second day running, as if someone has flicked a switch, the wind began to blow.
    Naturally, it was a headwind, but wind nonetheless offered a welcome break from rowing. I hauled up the sails and we scampered out across the gentle chop. I tacked smartly, then back in close by the drowned forest tacked again. The wind built and brought with it waves. Leaping off waves, and clawing up to windward with spray flying, this was proper sailing.

    More wind called for a reef. With the mizzen holding the bow to wind the foresail dropped smartly into the boat. A couple bouncy minutes later it was reefed and flying again.

    By now there was a good breeze blowing and we were making quick progress even beating to windward. Heading first for the far shore, I tacked, then again and again. I looked back at the solitary tree standing tall and grey, far off the point. It would be foolish to try and cut inside it, especially on this lee shore, but if we tacked now we should be clear. Close to the point the wind backed and I was forced to tack again. I headed back out into the now boisterous lake. This time we’d clear - comfortably. As we raced past the solitary tree doing our best speed on a close reach the bay opened up and I bore off.

    I saw a dock!

    By now it was just after 4, and I thought I might just make my train.

    I was starting to feel the sheltering lee of the far point, but still we sped on. I saw the railcar slowly rolling towards the water and a few minutes later a fast powerboat raced by me, out into the open lake. A few minutes more and I gently eased alongside the float, now almost completely sheltered from the wind.

    I’d made it!

    The park ranger welcomed me warmly but with a fair bit of amazement at how far I’d come in my boat - “and with no motor!”.

    My light boat was easily loaded onto the railcar and the tow began. Water rushed away as the car broke the surface, and then we headed up through the forest while I stood by, ready to man the brake. For now I admired the winding railroad tracks. We passed many hand winching stations and I was glad I’d sprung for the tow.

    We reached the top, unhitched the tow vehicle, and the ranger hopped aboard, giving us a push as he did so. Slowly we started to descend, and quickly picked up speed. I leaned back and pulled against the brake with my weight, keeping our speed steady. We quietly rolled along, past trees and winch stations. The tow cable bounced gently along the ties behind us when...

    BANG!

    The car stopped dead, I was nearly thrown off, and the boat slid forward, perilously close to taking a dive off the end of the car. Looking back, I saw the cable had snagged neatly onto a spike.
    “Well that never happens… usually they just pull out” remarked the ranger.

    I locked the brake, and hauled the boat back to safety. The ranger released the cable and I gingerly eased us down into Lake Eutsuk.


    Calm mooring


    Only one chance at anchoring - permanently.


    Far distant destination


    A clear course to the point

  13. #13
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    You've made the big time Andy - got a plug in the Woodenboat online newsletter- although they spelled it Nechanko- which is it? JayInOz

  14. #14
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    the river coming out of it is the Nechako. I have lived along it.
    here is a map of the back-up to the kenney dam which out of it flows the Nechako
    a friend that I worked for back in the early 70's had a guiding territory in there in what is called the Fawny Range
    https://www.google.ca/maps/@54.31261,-125.4403645,12z
    ron

  15. #15
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by JayInOz View Post
    You've made the big time Andy - got a plug in the Woodenboat online newsletter- although they spelled it Nechanko- which is it? JayInOz
    I saw that - the pressure is on now. Like Ron said, it's Nechako with one N. Apparently from the local Carrier language and means "big river" which it certainly was.

    There's a book called "Too Good to Be True: Alcan's Kemano Completion Project" which has a good history of the original construction. It's a bit shocking to read about some local native groups getting told they had a couple weeks to move on before their village got flooded. Certainly highlights the darker aspects of hydro-electricity which seem to often get glossed over in favour of selling the environmentally friendly aspects.

    There are also a couple interesting Popular Mechanics articles (available free online through google books) about the building with such titles as "Engineers Invade Another Wilderness" which, today, would probably have the opposite connotation as it did when it was written. There's one passage that describes the first time they use a gondola to sling a massive caterpillar bulldozer up a mountain. Half way up, the gondola sags enough that they get caught up on a rocky outcropping. This causes them no problem though because one of the passengers breaks out a drill, sets a charge, and they blow the rock up and continue on their way. I found it fascinating reading in a "I can't believe this actually happened" kind of way.
    Last edited by andykane; 03-27-2014 at 11:15 PM.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Excellent adventure! Waiting for more.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    We're approaching the more photos, less writing part of the trip.

    I was immediately struck by different this new lake felt. The grey waves breaking on grey trees and jagged rocks had all been replaced by mirror smooth waters with lush green shores. Lilypads complete with bright yellow flowers floated on the clear water as if set in resin. As I rowed away from the dock the soft mud erupted in swirls when I swung too close to the bottom. My course was almost dead downwind so I made sail and ghosted south in shallow waters as I watched the soft mud slip by close below the surface.

    I’d been told there was a good campsite by the head of the bay, but my chart showed that I was leaving a bay within a bay within a bay, and depending on which bay held this campsite I’d need only minutes or as long as a couple hours to arrive. Conscious of the advancing evening and tired from the day’s travels, I kept a keen watch for any suitable spot.

    Soon enough I rounded a bend in this circuitous inlet and the largest of the bays opened to starboard, with the open lake visible in the distance. To port I spotted what looked like a sandy beach; a closer inspection confirmed this and revealed a slow moving creek at one end, sheltered behind a long point. A shallow bar across the mouth of the bay forced me to drop sail and continue under oars but later proved to be a valuable breakwater that left the beach quite calm even as waves broke on the bar offshore.

    I was yet again faced with the bear dilemma. I was wary about trying another clothesline setup with the anchor, and the bay was too shallow to be any real deterrent anyway. I decided to leave the boat ashore for the night but took care to cook and wash away from the boat and the tent, and also placed any garbage in sealed bags to keep smells from attracting unwanted attention.
    A good meal followed by the arrival of a bright and clear night ushered me into a deep and well earned sleep.


    First taste of Lake Eutsuk


    A calm corner


    Protected by a sandbar


    Geometric progression of saplings against the evening light

  18. #18
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    What a great boat. . .er. . I mean story. Actually, I mean both.

    Last edited by James McMullen; 03-28-2014 at 11:17 AM.
    If this post did not meet all of your needs, please consult this thread for more options.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    I love these stories! Keep it coming....

  20. #20
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Nice!
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
    Doctor Jacquin to Lieutenant D'Hubert, in Ridley Scott's first major film _The Duellists_.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Wonderful, Thanks for posting....inspiring.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Andy,

    Wonderful story and photos. About those bears, did you consider sleeping aboard? I've had too many run-ins with bears (not even grizzlies) on hiking trips - lost all the food and had to cut a trip short once.

    Rick

  23. #23
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by andykane View Post



    Did you carry an extra set of oars?
    Ben Sebens, LPN

  24. #24
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by BBSebens View Post
    Did you carry an extra set of oars?
    Yeah, I thought a spare set was wise. They're 8 footers from Barkley Sound Oars. The balanced 9.5ft Culler pattern oars are much nicer to use, but the Barkley Sound ones are a bargain. They were cheaper than the clubs from west marine and, being Sitka spruce, much lighter. I was pleasantly surprised at how effective that oar stowing setup worked out to be. Neither set moved at all even in the roughest, bounciest seas. I did usually lash each pair to the knee when I anticipated rough going, but it never felt necessary. I also got some nice heavy duty #2 bronze oarlocks while I was there (and then installed them in the ferry parking lot).

    Quote Originally Posted by rgthom View Post
    Wonderful story and photos. About those bears, did you consider sleeping aboard? I've had too many run-ins with bears (not even grizzlies) on hiking trips - lost all the food and had to cut a trip short once.
    I actually did sleep aboard a couple nights although more out of necessity than any other reason. I have no concerns about sleeping in a tent in bear country - been doing that my whole life without a single incident. It was purely the food I was concerned about. I did camp on small islands where possible and it was berry season so I'm sure the wildlife had plenty to eat. I also took care to keep my garbage well contained, and to keep everything as clean as possible, to minimize any attractive scents.

    ***

    The early morning sun made short work of warming my tent until I awoke and found myself in sweltering heat.

    Once again my trusty thermos delivered piping hot oatmeal on a moment’s notice. By now I’d developed an efficient routine where I heated a bag of dinner in boiling water and then mixed the same water with a premeasured bag of oats in the thermos. After a good shake the oatmeal slowly cooked to a lovely consistency with just enough texture to the flakes.

    My original goal for the trip was Pondosy Lake. My chart showed this lake surrounded by towering mountain peaks, and just barely reachable by way of a short shallow river. Throughout my dreaming, Pondosy Lake had featured heavily and I dearly wanted to sail right up among the peaks, on the vivid glacial blue water, with the sky only visible by craning my gaze upward above the mountains all around. The distances to the head of Pondosy Lake and back seemed possible, but wind or not could would mean the difference between good quick progress and endless hours of rowing. If the winds were strong and unfavourable I could potentially lose days trying to make my way home.

    Instead I turned my eye to the northernmost arm of Eutsuk lake. It promised a similar collection of mountain peaks dropping steeply into the water but was rather closer and, more importantly, I knew once I arrived I would find the prevailing winds favourable for my return.

    I set out of the bay and set sail as soon as I reached the deep water beyond the bar. Almost immediately what had felt like a promising breeze dropped to nothing. Being, as I was, in no particular hurry I continued on, making at times as much as half a knot.

    Without waves to disturb them, sails are remarkably able to transform even the slightest wandering movement of air into some forward motion. This particular morning I could not feel even the slightly breeze, and the water was like a mirror, yet with my weight to leeward gravity pulled a smooth curve into the sails and we inched forward.

    The morning passed in a lazy fashion. Occasionally a patch of gently rippled water would appear and the wind would carry us forward, only to falter and return us to a leisurely drift. I set to the oars periodically and by the time the sun peaked the morning’s camp was well out of sight.

    Soon the predictable afternoon westerly set in and I found myself making long tacks across the lake as I beat my way west. The southern shore was thickly forested and sloped gently down to the rocky shore while a barren mountainous ridge stood to the north.

    As the wind began to build I tucked in a reef and continued to beat back and forth, time and again, making my way up the lake. We were making good speed despite the rising waves. I sat on the gunwale and hooked my feet under the main thwart. From here I could comfortably hike out and, with mainsheet in hand, keep the boat level and sailing well. The sun was pleasantly warm, and occasionally a splash of spray would come aboard. Light in the ends, my craft rose quickly when we met a wave, gave a restrained leap of joy as we crested the peak, and slithered down the back only to begin the cycle anew.

    This was sailing at its finest.

    As time went on the wind strengthened slightly but, in an interesting illustration of wave mechanics, the wave heights actually dropped as I approached the western head of the lake and the fetch of the westerly wind decreased.
    By late afternoon the mountains were starting to cast shadows towards me and I began to search for a good camp. I spotted a small island and set a course to investigate. As I got closer I could see huge granite crags reaching up from the water. Just upwind of the island I hove to and drifted back to take a good look. There was a somewhat protected cove that looked promising, but I decided to circle the island. The cove I’d seen on the northern side was formed by granite outcrops and thick conifer forest to the west and a curving treed isthmus sweeping around to the east and swelling into low rocks. Around the end of the isthmus I found another cove nestled among overhanging trees. The southern point was high and rocky, and much of the western shore was sheer rock, dropping to the depths.

    I dropped sail and cautiously pulled for the protected waters of the first cove I’d spotted. I threaded my way among rocks awash, leaving the boisterous waters of the lake for the calm in the lee of the point.



    Looking to the end of the lake


    Look up!


    An intriguing Island


    Silhouette of ancient trees


    Cliffs of granite


    The money shot

  25. #25
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Thanks Andy, wonderful photos and excellent writing, you live in a beautiful place !
    Try to work out what the marketing guy wants you to do then do precisely the opposite.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by PeterSibley View Post
    you live in a beautiful place !
    Believe me, I think the same thing when I see the photos you guys post from down under!

  27. #27
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Inspiring adventure there Andy! Guess I'll build one of those boats.
    My Sooty and other boats: http://lingeringlunacy.blogspot.com

  28. #28
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure




    Makes you wish you had unlimited time to go scramble up that stream bed coming down from that hanging glacier and see what the lake looks like from up there
    Alex

    "A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, for he will be going out on a day he shouldn't. We do be afraid of the sea, and we only be drowned now and again" Aran Islands Fisherman

  29. #29
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Andy thanks for taking the time to write up your adventure. Great stuff mate! Lovely boat. I'd love to see a few pics of the railway, and the discarded canoe!

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  31. #31
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Y View Post
    Andy thanks for taking the time to write up your adventure. Great stuff mate! Lovely boat. I'd love to see a few pics of the railway, and the discarded canoe!
    Glad you're enjoying it. The canoe didn't get discarded - just re-purposed. I raced it weekly last season in the local portsmouth handicap fleet. Here's a photo.

    I didn't get any photos of the railway on the way in, but I have a few from the homeward trip that I'll post in due course.

    And now, we continue:

    Stepping ashore I was immediately struck by how ancient this island felt. In stark contrast to my previous island which felt new and raw with sharp edges everywhere this new island felt as if it had been untouched for eons. Lichens covered the rocks, and the trees grew gnarled with twisted bare limbs supporting patchy collections of dark green needles. On top of the granite cliffs I found golden grasses intermixing with colourful wildflowers, all dancing vigorously in the wind.

    Back on the beach I started to forge a path to the second cove in search of a flat scrap of land for the tent. A few small poplars grew under the taller pines on the low lying isthmus and I stopped to take a closer look at the beauty that surrounded me. When I knelt down I found layers upon layers of life. The forest floor was thickly covered with mosses, and succulents. Out of this carpet grew delicate flowers and miniature seedlings no taller than my thumb.

    In awe, I trod gently. Other than the small area under the poplars the island was thickly covered. Layer upon layer of trees made much of the island all but impenetrable, and thick undergrowth clinging to steep rocks completed the thicket.

    The second cove proved to be more sheltered and as it faced the near shore of the lake I was assured that it would remain so regardless of any whims of the wind. Since the night promised to be clear and nowhere was available for the tent I decided to shift moorings and sleep aboard in the second cove.

    I set an anchor off the stern and put a couple bow lines ashore and the boat softly lay to her moorings, just afloat. A few convenient stones made a natural quay and let me step aboard with dry feet.

    With my gear to port and sleeping bag set out to starboard I lay back and gazed skyward. Leafed limbs reached over the water to my right and to my left the crooked silhouettes of needle covered branches were dark against the sky. Dusk brought with it a calm and as the stars shone out in the scrap of sky above me, I was lulled to sleep by the few dwindling swells that curled around the point and gently lapped against the hull.


    Aged Trees


    The first cove


    A new forest rising


    Sunset


    The boat is snug for the night


    As am I

  32. #32
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Andy,
    You've got me jacked to finish mine. This is exactly the type of adventuring I'm building her for. I'm hoping I can slip under the thwart to sleep like that. I may give it a test in the garage one night before putting on the finish. I just got the side seats in. Will have to posts some pics myself.
    Questions:
    1. What is the thole pin (?) in the bottom right last pic for?
    2. Do you find the main mast causes the boat to roll too much at anchor?
    Thanks-
    EB
    My Sooty and other boats: http://lingeringlunacy.blogspot.com

  33. #33
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    This would be a great trip. I happy that you got to do that.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Eddie, that thole pin is to lash the tiller when necessary. I'm planning on replacing it with Yeadon's vastly superior setup which uses a 1/8" copper pin on the gunwale and a plate with a few holes on the underside of the tiller. Much more positive and quicker than lashing.

    I don't think it would be a problem having the main mast up at anchor. I only have it down in every single photo since I always lowered it for rowing. I usually lowered the mizzen for rowing too, but I don't yet have a mooring cleat in the stern so when necessary I stepped it and made the anchor off to the mast.

    Continuing on...



    By morning the skies were grey but not yet inclined to rain. I welcomed a hot bowl of oatmeal to ward off the early morning chill then set to stowing gear and making ready for the day’s passage.

    After so many long days I was looking forward to leisurely making my way to the next camp, only a few miles ahead. I first ghosted to the northern shore of the lake to explore an island I’d considered pressing on to reach the previous evening. Closer inspection revealed no place to land, with steep rocky cliffs on all sides and I was glad of my decision to stop. The steep shores dropped into deep water and in the calm weather I slowly sailed along in the shaded water below the cliffs.

    Gradually the wind died completely so I struck the rig and took to the oars. The head of the lake was roughly circular in shape and about 2 miles in diameter with tremendous mountains all around. I rowed across to the south shore and slowly picked my way along the bank. Massive slabs of granite rose out of the water in places, and trees overhung in others. Below me I could make out great fallen boulders in the clear water.

    Like the island I’d just left, everything felt ancient and untouched. The sea is constantly rising and falling with the tides and feels ever changing but this lake felt like it had been painted an eternity ago and I’d somehow stumbled into the frame. The water made a sharp line on the granite. Below was tinted in a cool green light while above lichens added to the texture of age.

    Around a small point I found a shady forested valley. Lying to a just away from the shore in a few feet of water I could gaze into the canopy above and the clear waters below. I marvelled at the serene beauty that surrounded me before continuing my circuitous route.

    At the very head of the lake the mountains dipped and a river flowed down from an unseen lake. My chart showed a path but all along my search I found nothing but impenetrable undergrowth.

    The wind began to rise, this time at my back, from the west. As my beach lay comfortably to leeward, I made sail and was quickly carried along the shore. Up on the open slopes to port I spotted a black bear slowly picking its way among the boulders and patchy vegetation.

    After skimming through shallows and across the mouth of a glacial stream, I set the anchor and the wind pushed me back towards the beach. A few feet away I snubbed the line, stepped ashore, and set a stern line. In the sun, on the sand, I warmed some soup and ate lunch while I read about adventures in the underworld of Victorian England. The chapter’s end brought me back to my glorious mountain valley.
    The wind was building and so I decided to tuck the boat into the river mouth to give some protection from the waves that were now breaking onto this lee shore.

    I found a suitably stout bush on the far bank and tied to it a ring. I ran the clothesline through the ring and rowed back across the river. A handy root made a handy point for the other end of the line and I the boat sat sweetly just off the bank, held in place by the current, and sheltered from the waves of the open lake.

    With the boat secure, I started to make camp by setting up the tent. I found a nice flat, sandy patch, sheltered among bushes at the top of the beach.

    Just then, the rain began to fall. At first a few drops fell hard and heavy, but quickly I was in a fierce rain squall. I rushed to get the tent up and the fly on before anything got too wet, with moderate success. I now had some shelter from the wet, but an empty tent is hardly the most comfortable of places so I decided to make a mad dash for the boat to retrieve my sleeping bag and thermarest.

    I’d unfortunately lashed the thermarest conveniently under a side bench and it was consequently rather damp. Luckily my sleeping bag was safe and dry in the forward compartment, so I quickly loosened the hatch dogs, grabbed the bag, closed the hatch, and ran back to the tent.

    While dampness lingered in places, I could then lie snug in my sleeping bag on the dry side of my thermarest and while the rain continued to pound down, hammering on the taut fly, I read, and was whisked away to another time and place.

    Eventually the rain diminished enough for me to heat up some late dinner.

    I decided to explore inland on a trail that promised to lead to small lake, just inland. I started off through thick overhanging ferns and climbed inland alongside the creek where I’d moored the boat. After some time I still had not reached the lake, so I turned around and instead kept an eye out for a trail to the west down to a waterfall I’d seen marked on the map. This I was able to find and I found a delightful blue-green pool fed by a proper set of falls. From my view the whole scene was framed by foliage.

    Back at the tent I turned in for an early night.



    Ghosting along


    Looking back toward the head of the lake


    Moored off the beach


    Moored in the river


    The waterfall

  35. #35
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Cool!
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    Jagular Goes Everywhere: (mis)Adventures in a $300 Sailboat. Book release November 2014.

  36. #36
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Very nice story. I love solo trips. (Mind you, I like any trips like yours...)

    Regarding keeping bears out of boats, one useful habit is to not set a fish down inside your canoe/boat. Don't let it touch the hull on the inside.

    One thing bears understand, totally, is fish. If they can smell fish in your boat, they'll wreck it trying to find them -- usually at 03:30 AM, when you really don't feel like getting out of your bag to have an altercation. Better when you catch a fish is to grab it hard while still outside the boat, put it on a stringer, and back into the water.

    Then clean it far away from your camp.

    But it sounds like you're an experienced back-country wanderer, so I imagine you are already adept at staying out of trouble.

    Dave

  37. #37
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Actually yeadon's pushstick keeper is of my invention, but who's counting. Mounted on my thwart knee, his on Big Food's thwart. Would be interesting to see such a device set on the rail.

    wonderfull thread, these last pictures spectacular. Of all the lakes up that way Andy, how did you settle on this tour?

  38. #38
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Wonderful (wonder full) thread Andy. Very inspiring. I keep seeing what look like excellent sites for a small log cabin (that's the escapist/ adventurer in me), as well as day long opportunities to tow a bit of sinking line with whatever the best lure or bait would be. Did you see or hear any wolves or wolf sign? I used to be obsessed with wolves, it's only a minor illness now. If I were to come across a pack that would accept my presence in the vicinity I would have a hard time not just moving right in.

  39. #39
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    never did hear to much of wolves in that area. friend did get a grizzly back in there that was #3 on the B&C list though.
    ron

  40. #40
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hadfield View Post
    One thing bears understand, totally, is fish. If they can smell fish in your boat, they'll wreck it trying to find them -- usually at 03:30 AM, when you really don't feel like getting out of your bag to have an altercation. Better when you catch a fish is to grab it hard while still outside the boat, put it on a stringer, and back into the water.
    That is some good advice that I hadn't considered. I did bring a rod but never got around to trying for any fish and I'm certainly a novice in that area.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Hvalsoe View Post
    Actually yeadon's pushstick keeper is of my invention, but who's counting. Of all the lakes up that way Andy, how did you settle on this tour?
    Now that you mention it, I'm pretty sure he told me that - so no need to get a new marketing guy. My pushstick isn't long enough to get to the thwart, but I think I can make something work on the rail. It can't be any more obtrusive than the current belaying/thole pin, and I was really impressed with how positive and quick to use the pin setup was.

    As far as picking the lake, honestly I was just exploring in google earth one day and noticed this giant circular series of lakes. I figured this was pretty unusual and was surprised to find how little travelled the area was. That desire to explore, combined with the intrigue of the drowned forest and the towering mountains just seared themselves into my imagination and from then there was no looking back. I'd definitely recommend the trip, but at the same time there are plenty of equally wonderful options that are probably much closer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gib Etheridge View Post
    Did you see or hear any wolves or wolf sign?
    No wolves and in fact the only large wildlife I saw was a black bear crossing an open patch on a mountainside.


    Now, back to the story. Homeward bound!


    I awoke to a bright morning with sun streaming down between the few lingering clouds and covering the mountain slopes with dappled light.

    The night’s heavy rains had filled the bilge and the floorboards were awash. After bailing I sat on the now dry thwart, poured from my trusty thermos a bowl of steaming oatmeal, and pondered my route for the day while I ate.

    My goal was to cross the railway the following morning and so I set my sights on the same sandy bay with it’s protected mooring where I’d camped on the trip in.

    I’d envisioned a morning of leisurely rowing followed by a quick sail once the afternoon breeze picked up but today as I prepared to cast off the mooring lines, a westerly breeze began to appear.

    I made sail and began the return voyage in a leisurely but ever so pleasant fashion. Familiar landmark appeared ahead, then were passed and left astern. The granite cliffs of the ancient island were catching the light of the sun while to starboard the steep northern face of the mountains were still clad in shade.

    As my journey progressed the wind picked up and the waves began to rise. I was making quick progress, sailing deep downwind and rolling heavily in the rising swell. This brought to mind memories of trade-wind sailing: comfortably sailing onward, ever onward, and rolling, as the waves passed beneath us, first one way, then the other, then back again.

    By the time we were being driven firmly at hull speed and surfing on the larger waves I decided to heave to and tie in a reef. It is easy to carry on too long in these circumstances only to find after rounding up that it’s blowing half a gale and you’ve far more sail up than you want. But not this time.

    I lowered the main and tied in a reef while been tossed about by enthusiastic waves but before long we were under way again and the boat was making just as good progress as before while being rather less hard pressed.

    I headed up to a broad reach and plowed a white furrow through the whitecaps until I was directly to windward of the bay. I rounded up, lowered sail, and took the oars. Soon we were snug in the placid water of the sheltered creek.

    This furious run had taken a mere couple hours and it was hardly afternoon. After a quick lunch I relaxed in the sun, reading and gazing out across the choppy lake.

    These leisurely times continued into the evening, and eventually concluded as dusk fell. Warm, dry, and comfortable, I slept well.


    Morning after the storm


    Easy run


    Looking up the slope


    Returning past familiar landmarks

  41. #41
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    I'm lovin' it !

    Andy, what kind of camera are you using ? Your photos are excellent..... probably because you're very good at the craft !
    Try to work out what the marketing guy wants you to do then do precisely the opposite.

  42. #42
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Thanks for that.......those lake/mountain views are beautiful BUT look cold.
    I am a fisherman so it is a shame you didn't catch any fish.....what fish are there in those lakes?
    Thanks again
    Robbie
    I once thought I was wrong, but I was wrong, I wasn't wrong.

  43. #43
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Yeah. I spy a fishing reel there in that last shot. How' bout it?

    Kevi
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  44. #44
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by PeterSibley View Post
    Andy, what kind of camera are you using ? Your photos are excellent..... probably because you're very good at the craft !
    I think most of the credit goes to the scenery in this case. Most of these are with my old Pentax K100D. It was an entry level DSLR when I got it used in 2007 and since then it's travelled around the world slung under my arm, from Papua New Guinean jungle swamps to the Canadian Arctic to, recently, a long dusty stretch in the boatshed (followed immediately by this trip!). I think these were all just with the basic kit lens, so nothing too special. I did take about 600 photos over the trip, so you're definitely seeing the best ones. Most of these are straight from the camera without any editing other than resizing and applying a sharpening filter. I find the sharpening is critical to really making the photos "pop". I use a superb and free program called Irfanview to resize and sharpen the photos. It's been around forever but still seems to work far more efficiently than anything else.


    Quote Originally Posted by Robbie 2 View Post
    Thanks for that.......those lake/mountain views are beautiful BUT look cold.
    I am a fisherman so it is a shame you didn't catch any fish.....what fish are there in those lakes?
    Despite the looks the water is actually quite pleasant. The lakes are all fairly shallow so by August they were not bad at all. I swam almost every day, quite comfortably. As far as fish, I think there are lots of trout. I did talk to a couple fishing groups (the only people I saw all trip) and they had decent luck with, I'm pretty sure, trout. They were mostly fly fishing in the creeks though.

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakaway View Post
    Yeah. I spy a fishing reel there in that last shot. How' bout it?
    Brought with the best of intentions, but I never got around to doing any fishing. I've only ever fished for food, and I didn't want to deal with an entire fish to myself. I had visions of a time off PNG when someone caught a 130lb Marlin and we for the next few days we had fish steak, fish soup, fish cakes, fish sausages, fish tacos, and so on.


    Back to the story:


    I awoke to find yesterday’s wind still blowing and hurriedly struck camp and took to the oars. Unfortunately the last mile to the railroad was upwind and in the narrow inlet I decided to row straight into the wind rather than waste all morning short tacking my way forward.

    When I arrived at the railroad I found the dock deserted so I marched across to the far side of the crossing and found the operator enjoying a very comfortable nap. Eventually he and his dog returned to my boat and we loaded the rail car. This traverse went without a hitch and soon I was floating in the now calm, grey waters of the reservoir.

    The prevailing winds were from the west and I was hoping for a quick run home once the afternoon breeze picked up. To this end I leisurely meandered my way out of the bay and very slowly made my way up the lake, drifting between the faint patches of wind as they passed by. First from one direction, then from another, but never from where I’d hoped. Progress was slow but the weather was calm and I imbibed my literature freely.

    Eventually it became clear that the wind would not arrive as hoped.
    Reluctant to begin the slow row that with the slightly favourable wind could be a quick sail, I continued my convoluted course to the east.

    Despite being largely at the mercy of the winds, there is a profound, simple freedom in a boat like this with nothing but the most basic rules of the universe at play. When the wind blows furiously, I pit my skills and wits against the forces of nature to eke us forward with nothing but the world itself to stop me. When the wind is calm, I can row. Or I can not row - it’s entirely up to me. If I row, my exertions are directly applied to my progress and if I chose to not, then I can enjoy the leisure of drifting around. Until, of course, I find dusk falling and no good camp in sight. It was in this latter situation that I now found myself.

    To the north there was an extensive drowned forest, and I decided that the best option would be to spend the night moored between two treetops. Not a typical mooring location for a boat, but in this case it seemed most convenient.

    I arrived as the sun dropped between the now distant peaks and moored the boat securely fore and aft. I ate a quick meal under ominous skies before turning my attention to fashioning some kind of tent. I was able to use the mainmast as a ridge pole and by lashing the 3rd set of reef points to the yard, create a square of canvas that could be set over it and secured. At this point the rain began to fall so I hurriedly donned my foul weather gear and ducked under the shelter. The tent was less than ideal but did provide some basic protection and so for a few hours I slept, relatively dry in my foul weather gear, but far from comfortable.


    Railway in Lake Eutsuk


    Patiently moored


    On the railway car


    Treetop mooring

  45. #45
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    It's entirely appropriate, somehow, that a boat type named after a bird should be spending the night in the tree tops
    Alex

    "A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, for he will be going out on a day he shouldn't. We do be afraid of the sea, and we only be drowned now and again" Aran Islands Fisherman

  46. #46
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Quote Originally Posted by AJZimm View Post
    It's entirely appropriate, somehow, that a boat type named after a bird should be spending the night in the tree tops
    How true! And it did so admirably.

    Quote Originally Posted by KMacDonald View Post
    Great story, writing and pictures. Can't wait til your next adventure. Thanks for sharing.

    By the way, I would like to hear about a trip to the North Channel if you happen to be looking for another adventure.
    Glad you're enjoying it. Which North Channel are we talking about? BC Inside Passage?



    I woke up, cold, a few hours later to find a wide open sky with thousands of stars shining. By the dim light I dug out my still dry sleeping bag and quickly fell asleep in the newfound warmth.

    I next awoke in the half light of an imminent dawn. A gentle southerly breeze rippled the water and the promise of progress lured me from my bed. A few quick minutes later I was fed, the boat was rigged, and we were making a comfortable couple knots, homeward bound with a rising wind.

    Making first three, then four, then over five knots, landmarks passed quickly. The shores closed in and I rounded a point to port, revealing the island where everything was sharp with its convenient mooring islet. Beyond that the lake widened but the navigable passage remained narrow with great swaths of drowned forest on all sides.

    Scattered whitecaps began to appear with the rising wind and we started to surf on the bigger waves and were sailing in fine fashion.

    By late morning we were nearly back at the launch. The first bay opened to port and, giving the shallow point a wide berth, I bore up and sailed onward in a roaring close reach. Even this far off the point, scattered deadheads bobbed menacingly but a sharp lookout paid off and we escaped unscathed. Soon I was sheltered by a high bank of trees and we were carried onward only by momentum. Eventually I struck the rig, took to the oars, and slowly negotiated the final narrow cut through the rocky ground.

    I pulled gently alongside the float, stepped ashore, and, standing in the sunshine, marvelled at what I’d just done. My own arms, legs, wits, and this little boat had carried me to the horizon and back. We’d seen glorious sights, passed feats of endurance, endured hardships, and all in all, had an unforgettable time.


    Heading North at dawn


    Sunrise on the sails


    All done.

  47. #47
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Great trip and pictures--thanks for that.

    Quote Originally Posted by andykane View Post
    Which North Channel are we talking about? BC Inside Passage?
    I think he might mean this one:



    at the northern edge of Lake Huron. Well worth a trip.

    Tom
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    Jagular Goes Everywhere: (mis)Adventures in a $300 Sailboat. Book release November 2014.

  48. #48
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    "My own arms, legs, wits, and this little boat had carried me to the horizon and back. "

    And us with you. Great story, Andy! Tks / Jim

  49. #49
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure

    Thanks for bringing us along Andy, to a part of the world I wouldn't likely have considered as a cruising ground. It was a treat!
    Alex

    "A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, for he will be going out on a day he shouldn't. We do be afraid of the sea, and we only be drowned now and again" Aran Islands Fisherman

  50. #50
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    Default Re: A Nechako Adventure


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