August 27, 2017: Summery day and starry night

Today was the ideal late-summer day from dawn through dusk! After a gently breezy night, we slept late and spent the morning, after breakfasting on hot oatmeal, relaxing and reading, Walt his detective novels and I several of our cruising guides, one dating from the late 1970s, another from the late 1980s, the next from about five years ago, one from 2015, and the latest from this year. It’s fun and instructive to compare the information in the guides to see what has changed and what hasn’t over some 40 years, and to learn something about the political and geological history of the British Columbia coast and islands and about their flora and fauna as well. I also updated some of the information in my blog posts for publishing when we again have sufficient connectivity.

After a late lunch of sandwiches and peaches, Walt lowered Coracle from her davits and we set off to motor around and among the Octopus Islands on a very warm, lightly windy August afternoon. We were rounding a curve in the shore when Walt’s baseball cap was caught by the wind and tossed into the water–time for a “Hat Overboard!” drill! Walt slowed Coracle and circled several times, but kept running over the cap until he finally managed to pull alongside it and snatch it up, and the cool water helped to keep his head comfortable over the course of the next hour and a half of motoring.

Octopus Islands Driftwood Lion
Use a magnifying glass to see if the log at the far right above the rocks looks like a lounging lion to you.

We toured the shores of the bays, enjoying the cedar-shaded waters especially where the moist air smelled particularly fresh and “foresty,” and we made our way slowly and  carefully among the many rock formations and islets; I provided water-depth-watch services in the bow of the dinghy, which probably weren’t needed but which made me feel useful as we skimmed over especially shallow areas where I could clearly see boulders, smaller stones, shells, seaweed, and sand below us. We entered one such shallow spot that turned out to be a lovely sand-bottomed rock-rimmed wading pool that would have been almost irresistibly inviting had the water not been so chilly! We passed a small gravel “pocket beach” and moved on to spots that were piled with “block-rocks” that looked as if they had been neatly cut and stacked or jumbled about for the shore-giants’ children to play with. Some waters were festooned with the trailing waxy-amber plumage of kelp; some rocks were covered with honey-colored seaweed and lime green, chocolate brown, and licorice black mosses; and other rocks were heavily small-pocked with tiny white dots near their bases as if they were suffering from some unfortunate skin malady. We saw ruffly-white jellies drifting by, observed many seagulls and dark colored dabbling and diving ducks, and came upon several herons as well. When we approached the first one, perched on and camouflaged by a gray rock, it flew to another ledge nearby, and when we came close to THAT rock, it flapped to another. When we drew near a third time, the bird soared onto a tree branch, and when we passed the tree, it ascended to an even higher branch on a second tree, hoping the intruders would finally depart and leave it in peace! Soon we saw another heron, who also avoided us by flying to neighboring rocks and branches, and then we spied a third bird, of which I was able to take a picture before it winged away. Finally we passed a fourth heron, sitting, unflappable, atop a pointed rock, seemingly unafraid, or perhaps unwilling to abandon a good fishing spot.

Octopus Islands: Herron on the point
A magnifying glass might allow you to see the heron perched at the very end of the point in the center of the picture.

We were back on Braesail around 3:30 pm and gathered up our crabbing gear, filling Coracle’s motor’s tank before placing two traps baited with herring-seasoned raw chicken trimmings. In the course of our tour around the islands, we hadn’t seen many traps, but decided to try anyway. We both napped in the aft cabin with cool air from the electric fan blowing over us, woke before 6 pm, and took Coracle out to check our crab traps, which were empty, but it was lovely to be out in the dinghy on a beautiful evening. I worked on this blog entry and then went outside and onto the port deck with a scraping tool to work at chipping away the blistering, flaking varnish finish along the boat’s toe rail, about 100 feet of which must be removed before sanding and refinishing with multiple coats of teak oil this fall. Walt soon called me in to a supper of salad and chicken curry, and then I went back outside in the moonlight and the delightful evening breezes, some cool and others surprisingly warm, to work do further work on the rail. It was quite dark by about 10:30 pm, and I was able to enjoy the sight of the Milky Way pouring its streams of gauzy star-mists across the sky to fill the crescent moon’s alabaster cup until it overflowed and spilled creamy light across the water to Braesail’s beam. I was able to identify a number of the summer constellations I used to pick out as a child living in a small mountain town, saw about a half-dozen meteors flashing and streaking toward the fills, and even found the International Space Station and watched for the few minutes it took it to transit and leave my field of vision! What a stellar gift! I finally found my way to bed, though I could have stayed out on the fore deck in the sweet air and watched all night . . .

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