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Thread: Haida Gwaii

  1. #1
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    Default Haida Gwaii

    Between mid-May and the end of June, we explored the northern coast of British Columbia and Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands). Here is the track that our inReach generated. The total distance covered was just over 1500 nautical miles.



    Full disclosure. We had to be home by July 1st and when we got to Port McNeill it became apparent that, allowing for weather windows, we would not have enough time to get to Haida Gwaii and back aboard our 6-knot sailboat. So we jumped ship and joined a friend on his 25-knot powerboat for the Hecate Strait crossings and exploration of Fiordland.



    The southern islands of Haida Gwaii (Gwaii Haanas) are a protected area, co-managed by the Haida people and Parks Canada. Prior to entry, you have to attend an orientation class, and there is a limit to the number of people admitted to the park each day. That wasn't an issue during our visit, which was fairly early in the season. We went 4 days without seeing another person or boat. The weather was predictably bad, but there were a few other hardy souls about.



    The Haida people have lived here for approximately 12,000 years. Soon after first contact with European explorers, a smallpox epidemic reduced their population from 30,000 to 500. Today there are around 2000 Haida people, and there are only 15-20 native Haida speakers left. The ruins of their villages are protected by "watchmen", and only 10 people at a time are allowed to visit the sites. In addition to guiding visitors through the sites, the watchmen provide a rich oral history of the Haida people.



    SGang Gwaay is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In addition to the village ruins, it contains a number of mortuary poles, where the remains of prominent leaders were ensconced within bentwood boxes.



    More to come . . .

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    Beautiful area! An entire civilization being wiped out by disease is truly horrific to consider.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    Wow, a freind of mine is on his way there right now. Looks magical.
    Chuck Hancock

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    Another view of the ruins at SGang Gwaay. The long houses had 4 corner posts, each with a huge mortise and tenon joint that held the rafters. One of the joints is still standing, although the rafter and center beam have collapsed. Other than guarding against human degradation, no effort is being made to slow the natural process of decay. That's part of the Haida ethic - everything is connected and goes back to the earth.



    Some of the long houses had basement pits. Floors and walls were made up of cedar planks.



    The west coast of the islands gets over 150 inches of rainfall per year, producing an amazing temperate rain forest. There are a few hiking trails like the one below, but much of the forest is impenetrable.



    Deer were introduced some time ago as a food source, but with no natural predators, their population exploded. There is now a program to eliminate them island by island as they have a destructive impact on the native ecosystem.




    .

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    There are literally hundreds of anchorages in the protected area of Gwaii Haanas. We never had to share one with another boat. This is Anna Inlet.



    We were there during a spring tide with a 10-12 foot range. This is Echo Bay near high tide.



    Our favorite anchorage was Island Bay, which had this beautiful river/waterfall near its head.



    Here was Island Bay on the morning of our departure




    .

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    We also traveled to the north island of Haida Gwaii, which is not part of the national park conservation area. In Old Masset, we stopped at the shop of Christian White, master carver of poles and canoes. Photos courtesy of the Haida Gwaii Observer.



    The carving shed is in a traditionally built longhouse. Note the pole construction with cedar plank walls.



    The Haida canoes are carved from a single red cedar log, with additional planks at the bow and stern.



    After the cedar log is hollowed out it is filled with boiling water and hot rocks. When the wood softens the sides are spread apart to increase the beam.


    .

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    We passed this sign on the road to Old Masset. It wasn't clear whether the speed limit was higher or lower when children were not present.

    Last edited by Dave Lesser; 07-17-2017 at 11:48 PM.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    After crossing back to the mainland, we spent a few days exploring Fiordland National Park. After the wet winter, the waterfalls were really roaring.



    This pass was tempting, but it dried out at low tide.





    The crabbing in Fiordland was reasonably good. Ten keepers in one pull.



    As was the eating

    Last edited by Dave Lesser; 07-17-2017 at 11:47 PM.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    On the way home, we stopped at Pruth Bay on Calvert Island. A humpback whale breached completely out of the water about 1/2 mile from us, just north of Pruth Bay. Too fast to even try to get a photo, but that image will never be forgotten.

    The Hakai Institute occupies a former Calvert Island fishing lodge. It's privately funded and does environmental research along the BC coast.



    From the institute, we hiked across the island past freshwater ponds



    Arriving at West Beach




  10. #10
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    The weather started to clear, so we figured it was time to go home.



    As we rounded Cape Caution and entered Queen Charlotte Sound, we passed 5 or 6 of the northbound R2AK boats. By then it had started to rain again, the northwest wind was howling, and the seas were steep. They were plowing into it, on small open monohulls and catamarans. Very cold and wet. Finishing that race is truly an heroic achievement.

    We re-boarded our boat in Port McNeill, and had 7 days of great sailing on our way home, stopping in the San Juan Islands for a couple of days before returning to Sidney.

    Next year, we'll check out the west coast of Vancouver Island.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    Looks like a real nice Coastal Craft you hopped on? A very nice ride!

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    Damn Dave, sorry I missed you again. I'd been keeping an eye out for your masts at Fisherman's Wharf. You are saying July might be a better time to visit Haida Gwaii?

    Tks for this taste of the dream. / Jim

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    Thanks for the wonderful images in words and pictures it's inspiring.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Schweiss View Post
    Looks like a real nice Coastal Craft you hopped on? A very nice ride!
    Yes, a very nice ride (for a powerboat). Aluminum hull, built like a tank. Handled the 90-mile Hecate Strait crossing in under 5 hours, with 1-2 meter seas and a 4 second interval. Not comfortable, but we got it over with quickly. The electronics and systems were a little too complex for me. The water maker went out on day two, but we were able to collect 30 gallons of rainwater per day in plastic buckets.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    Quote Originally Posted by chas View Post
    Damn Dave, sorry I missed you again. I'd been keeping an eye out for your masts at Fisherman's Wharf. You are saying July might be a better time to visit Haida Gwaii?
    Sorry we missed you, too. Would have given you a heads up, but our schedule was uncertain. We took your advice and ducked into Port Neville - actually stayed there two nights waiting for a front to pass, then ran down to Gowland Harbor from there without stopping at Campbell River.

    The Haida Gwaii weather in July would probably be better than June, and as you probably know, August is known as Fogust up there.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    What an amazing trip. Swoon.
    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Yeadon is right, of course.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    "Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands)". not formerly Q. Charlotte islands but still known as the Q. Charlotte Islands.. Fiordland is a new one also.
    your chart shows you going to Skidegate Inlet though you have pictures of being in Old Massett which is further up.
    ron

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    Quote Originally Posted by ron david View Post
    "Haida Gwaii (formerly Queen Charlotte Islands)". not formerly Q. Charlotte islands but still known as the Q. Charlotte Islands.. Fiordland is a new one also.
    On June 3, 2010, the Haida Gwaii Reconciliation Act officially renamed the islands Haida Gwaii as part of a reconciliation protocol between British Columbia and the Haida people.

    Fiordland is a BC Provincial Marine Park, co-managed under an agreement between the Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nation and the Province of British Columbia

    www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/fiordland/


    your chart shows you going to Skidegate Inlet though you have pictures of being in Old Massett which is further up.
    We rented a car from Gracie in Queen Charlotte City and drove up to Old Masset. Didn't think to take our tracker with us.
    Last edited by Dave Lesser; 07-18-2017 at 11:56 AM.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    when you live here and have worked there one forgets all about the tourism names they tack on everything. it is all about $ bills
    45- 50 years ago a white man would never go into Old Massett. people spend money here now
    a lot of parks around now. the property the family owned when I was born is now a National Park,(Garry Point Park). what was once part of what was once my Uncle John's trapline from about 1930 up into the middle of the 70's is now a Provincial Park at the head of the Indian Arm and Indian River.

    ron

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Haida Gwaii

    Wow, what a fantastic cruise, thanks for sharing Dave. And great to see the indigenous culture and stewardship being recognised and preserved. I do feel for Europeans who are displaced by those developments, but not half as much as I feel for the original inhabitants.

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