August 24, 2017: A walk on the beach at Port Neville

After several somber gray days, we were pleasantly surprised on Thursday morning to find the sun chasing the erstwhile-victorious clouds from the sky as we rose to have some breakfast and share Morning Prayer. We were ready to leave Potts Lagoon on West Cracroft Island by about 10 am and motored out among the surrounding islands toward Clio Channel, Minstrel Island, Chatham Channel, Havannah Channel, the Broken Islands, Johnstone Strait, and Port Neville. The sun and the clouds played hide-and-seel above us, and winds, as usual, didn’t come out to join the games, but we did see seals’ heads popping up to stare at us twice as we motored.

Johnstone Strait islands
A typical view of islands, hills, mountains, sky, and ocean in the Johnstone Strait area

We passed through some narrow waterways, and Walt piloted Braesail through Chatham Channel at slack tide, as he did a month ago on our way north, avoiding rocks and large herds of bull kelp that flanked the central channel; I watched the rear shore to let Walt know if the range markers were lined up, one above the other, and he watched the markers on the shore ahead. Our only annoyance was a power boat that passed us at high speed and created a rocking wake, something a boater is NOT supposed to do in a range-marked channel!

We again found Johnstone Strait to be “Johnstone Lake,” as it proved to be on our northward journey, with wide, bright blue, unruffled waters surrounded by high hills that drew their deep forest-green cloaks closely about their sloping shoulders. We turned into Port Neville Inlet around 3 pm, and decided to tie up at the dock this time (a month ago, we motored up into the inlet and anchored behind Robbers’ Nob, site of birthday picnics a century ago and of a hippie commune in the 1960s). The strong current caused docking to be a little more challenging than initially anticipated, but Walt’s maneuvering skill was again displayed and a couple in a large sailboat already at the dock kindly lent us a hand as well. They told us about a grizzly bear they’d encountered on the shore a year ago when there, and then went off for a walk with an air horn handy. Walt took his usual afternoon nap, and, since we had fair connectivity at the free public dock, I worked hard to catch up with mail and blog posting before resting briefly in the sun-snuggled cockpit.

After Walt rose from his slumbers, we enjoyed corn chips and guacamole while a chicken curry with rice was under construction in the galley. While Walt was cooking, I climbed up the ramp to the shore as inquisitive clouds gathered above the dock to watch me, and read about hand-logger Sven Hans Hansen who homesteaded at Point Neville in 1891, built a house, raised a family, operated a post office (he had to row around with the mail before the government wharf was constructed), and was a leader of the small community in the area. His daughter ran a store out of their home for many years, and the building still stands at the end of the wharf, though the post office finally closed in 2010 and the store has been closed for years as well. I looked in the windows of the old store at the displays of furnishings still visible, and observed some other small homes around it, one of which had rope swings hanging from the branches of the gigantic trees beside it, before taking the stairs down to the beach for a walk in the fading light and whispering breeze. The tide was out, and I was able to step out over the smooth sea stones to test the temperature of the clear  sea water–it was QUITE chilly (about 54 degrees according to our boat’s instrumentation).  As I wandered up the beach from the murmuring water toward the tree-lined bank, the stones gave way to gravel, finer gravel studded with clam and sea urchin shells, coarse gray sand, and finally powdery white sand. A flock of small sand pipers was wading and feeding and scurrying among the tall shore grasses, and I found driftwood and remnants of logging and boating equipment–rusty chains, parts of wheels, a section of a propeller and shaft, and the tracks of a marine railway–all partially buried in the fine sand. As I was making my way back to the steps to the wharf, the kind folk who had met us at the dock came along with their dog and their air horn (I was carrying one as well in case bears made an appearance), and we had a great conversation before Walt blew our back-up horn from Braesaill to warn me that dinner would be ready soon (he’d phoned me, but I’d turned my smartphone’s ringer off).

After supper and clean-up we did some research in our cruising guides and decided to travel on Friday to Shoal Bay through two sets of rapids through which one goes close to slack tide in order to be safe from strong currents (active rivers running through the sea), whirlpools, eddies, overfalls (relatively small but significant waterfalls standing up in the ocean), and other generally rough water. I read background information about some of the places we have visited and plan to visit while Walt used my laptop for work on some web pages for the Society of Scholar Priests. We both were happy to climb into bed after munching graham crackers accompanied by tea at the end of another beautiful day of cruising.

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