August 26, 2017: We didn’t see an octopus

Walt and I slept late on a quiet, cloudy morning, and while he continued with the novel he’s been reading for a long time, I began going through the material on Robert Schumann’s Mass in C Minor that I collected while in Leuven to see what I might use for program notes for the October Orchestra Seattle/Seattle Chamber Singers concert that I’ll probably be unable to participate in because I’ll have been absent for too many rehearsals. Before our 12:30 pm departure from Shoal Bay, I carried a bag of bottles and cans up to the recycling bins at the top of the very steep ramp. The tide was out and I could see the rocks and shells beneath the water quite clearly. I helped the skipper of Sea Jay, the friendly gentleman in his 80s whom we had met on Friday, carry his recycling up the ramp and we had a very pleasant conversation; he told me that the moment he’d seen Walt on the previous day, he’d pictured him as a priest and as a choir director, as he indeed is! Most interesting . . .

We hadn’t motored far when Walt noticed that he had no speed-over-water reading on the binnacle (instrument panel in the cockpit), so we stopped the boat and he opened a panel in Braesail’s bow cabin floor and made sure that the instrument that produces that measurement was not clogged with sea debris and was working properly, a quick and easy operation. On we went as the strengthening sun beat back the clouds, motoring through the gorgeous country that we’ve enjoyed day by day. First we passed the huge whale-fin-shaped peak near Shoal Bay with its sweeping gray rockfall, and then we journeyed beside flocks of islands rugged and wooded, large and small (on one, aptly named “Sea Lion Island,” we did observe a goodly number of the whiskered creatures lolling about and soaking up sunshine), all the while peering through the openings between the hills and among the islands at tantalizing views of the distant coastal mountain peaks on which smears of snow could still be glimpsed.

At about 1:45 pm we traveled through Dent Rapids, the first of five tidal rapids to be transited on this afternoon. The water was relatively smooth, as one expects when passing through at or near slack tide. Next, almost immediately, came the stretch of water called “The Devil’s Hole,” which can be devilishly treacherous when water is flowing through the passage at high speeds, and this too presented no difficulties. On we went through Gillard Passage, again without encountering much turbulence, and next came the Yuculta Rapids, through which I brought Braesail without incident. At last, after encountering a few minutes of brisk wind, we turned starboard and motored through “Hole in the Wall,” a narrow Yosemite-like canyon with soaring, sheer granite cliffs on one side, dense forests of cedar and fir on the other, and rippling blue water beneath us that deepened in color from warm turquoise to rich jade green. We had two to three knots of current against us at first, and as we approached the narrowest part of the channel near its opening, the speed of the current increased to five to six knots, and choppy water, small whirlpools, up-wellings, spinning eddies, and little standing waves appeared all around us. Walt did his usual excellent job of steering as Braesail was pushed this way and that–a ride probably more exciting for me as a passenger than for him as pilot!

Soon after we reached calm water, we entered the labyrinthine passages among the Octopus Islands that form a stunningly beautiful, undeveloped Canadian marine park .

Octopus Islands: rock islet
A rock cluster among the Octopus Islands

Though we passed only a few feet from rocky shores, the water remained some 20 feet deep, and the subtle shades of blue and green produced by the varying water depths seemed infinite. At about 4 pm, we chose an anchoring spot in a huge bay enclosed by hills and islands and containing very few other boats, and “dropped the hook.” By this time, the afternoon had grown very warm, and, after snacking on corn chips and smoky black bean dip, both Walt and I succumbed to our sleepiness and napped for a long time; I chose to sleep on the comfortable bed in the bow cabin where it was coolest. A tasty of supper of burritos was followed by clean-up, reading, adding entries to “the captain’s log book,” and the writing of this blog post as we listened to a Handel oratorio, enjoyed a cookie or two, and watched an ivory fingernail moon in a star-strewn sky (the first I’ve seen since we began our journeys in May because of nighttime cloud cover!) slide away down the Milky Way, slip behind the velvet hills, and slither into the sable sea.

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