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Homeward Bound – Parting Shots

From Agamemnon Channel we turn about and head home, slipping safely through the Skookumchuck Rapids, winding down Sechelt Inlet to Porpoise Bay and the Lighthouse Marina.  This is the end of the tour and I’ll leave you with a few more photographs.

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Thanks for participating and following along.  I’ll soon be starting another blog a little closer to home – a photographic tour of our acreage.  I’ll post the information here once I’ve started it.

Thanks again – Ken

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Leaving Jervis Inlet

Travelling 28 miles (45 km) south from Deserted Bay, passing more majestic scenery, brings us back to the ‘intersection’ of Jervis Inlet, Sechelt Inlet and Agamemnon Channel.  There are just a couple of stops to see in Agamemnon Channel before returning home to Sechelt Inlet.

Princess Royal Reach 10

Princess Royal Reach Mountains

Agamemnon Channel is a 9.95 mile (16 km) narrow channel separating Nelson Island from the mainland.  At the southern end it opens out into Malaspina Strait which lies between Nelson Island and Texada Island.  Because of it’s narrowness Agamemnon is affected by the tides and, while they aren’t a problem for power boats, kayakers may want to check the tide charts before passing through.  It is a much easier paddle when going with the tide rather than fighting it.

At the northern end of Agamemnon, on the mainland side, is the BC Ferry Terminal at Earl’s Cove.  From there you can take a ferry to Powell River, BC.  Very near to the ferry terminal are a set of pictographs thought to be the oldest pictographs in all the inlets.

5 miles (8 km) south of the Earl’s Cove pictographs are another set found in a cave about 15 feet above sea level.

Continuing south out of Agamemnon there are other pictographs to be found in the area as this was a major gathering place for the shíshálh (Sechelt) in the winter months.

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Down Queen’s Reach

Cruising up the last 8 miles (13 km) to the head of Queen’s Reach took us past more wonderful sights – flowing mosses hanging from the shoreline trees, basking harbour seals, an old mine carved just above the tideline and the usual mountain vistas.  On reaching the end we were the furthest distance from our house, only 50 miles (80 km) – as the crow flies – with all this amazing beauty in between.

The head of Queen’s Reach was once another village of the shíshálh.  This one was the home of the Xénichen sub-group and the village was called Hunaechin.  Mount Victoria at 6,850 feet (2,088 meters) dominates the view but an impressive Mount Alfred, 7,940 feet (2420 meters) can be seen over to the left.

Jervis Inlet Head

Queen's Reach 4

Mount Victoria

Coming back down the upper shoreline of the reach there is another set of pictographs.  These are the brightest coloured of any we found.

 

About 7 miles (11.2 km) down from the head of Queen’s Reach is the entrance to Princess Louisa Inlet guarded by the Malibu Rapids.  The Malibu Rapids are another short tidal entrance that must be entered with caution and only at slack tide.  Sitting on the rocks above the rapids is the Malibu Club which is a Christian retreat centre for youth, owned by the Young Life Society.

The retreat was once the home of Thomas F Hamilton, the inventor of the variable pitch airplane propellor.  In the 1930’s Hamilton spent over $2,000,000 creating his luxury resort – building a 9 hole golf course, beaches, tennis courts, etc.  The rich and famous would fly in to stay in the luxurious, rustic setting for $250 a day.  The resort opened in 1941 but only ran for a couple of years.  When WW II broke out the resort hit a financial downturn.  It opened again from 1945 to 1950 entertaining such people as John Wayne, John F Kennedy, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.  Because of the difficulty of travel and a short weather season the resort hit another downturn and closed in 1950.  Hamilton put the property up for sale in 1951 for $1,000,000.  In 1954 the Young Life Society bought the property for a reported $300,000.  It now runs as a year round camp.

Inside the rapids is the famous 5 mile (8 km) long Princess Louisa Inlet with the 120 foot (37 meter) Chatterbox Falls at the end.  The area around the falls is part of the Princess Louisa Marine Park which is managed in cooperation with the Princess Louisa International Society.  As mentioned in an earlier post, 2,755 (840 meters) James Bruce Falls is to the left of Chatterbox Falls.  It is thought to be the tallest falls in North America.

Princess Louisa can be a very busy place for boats in the summer.  We didn’t visit there mainly because of that reason but also because it was late summer and the falls weren’t at their best.  Boat tours to Chatterbox Falls can be taken from Egmont in the spring and summer on the Malibu Princess.

Malibu

Malibu

Heading south down Queen’s Reach you arrive at Deserted Bay or Skwáh-kwee-em.  This was the home of the Ts´únay, another sept of the shíshálh and it was one of the largest villages of the shíshálh’s.

Deserted Bay has seen a variety of activities.  Logging started in the early 1900’s and continued throughout the years and in 1904 a salmon salting factory opened and ran until 1907.  In 1910 a slate deposit, previously used to make Indian arrowheads, was “re-discovered” and a slate quarry established but it closed in 1916.  In 1988 the Sechelt Band opened an outdoor education school at Deserted Bay on the site of an old logging camp.  It was later converted to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre for a short time.

When we anchored in the bay it was absolutely still and quiet.  All we could hear was the Deserted River flowing into the bay.  A beautiful place to kayak.

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Prince of Wales Reach

Prince of Wales Reach 1_watermarked

Prince of Wales Reach

Once leaving Vancouver Bay you enter into Prince of Wales Reach.  Again the steep mountains make a dramatic backdrop.  Moorsam Bluff on the right rises sharply 4900 feet (1500 meters) from the ocean.  On the left are slightly lower cliffs and about 4 miles north of Vancouver Bay are another set of pictographs.

When we planned our cruise up Jervis Inlet our intention was to take it slowly and explore the inlet thoroughly.  We travelled very close to the shore which was easy to do because of the depth of the water, cruising at about 4 knots (4.6 mph) and poked into every bay and crevice.  We were fortunate with the weather because all of the Reaches have very few places to anchor, especially if any wind is blowing.  I had read in boating guides of a couple of lesser known spots and they worked out well, but only because of the calm weather.

McMurray Bay Anchorage

“Jazz Age” – The Bight at McMurray Bay

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Low Tide

One beautiful spot was just past McMurray Bay on the west side of Prince of Wales Reach, 3 miles (4.8 km) past the pictographs.  McMurray Bay is a beautiful little spot with enough room for one boat and when we arrived there was a boat already anchored.  I had read about two small bights (bays) just past McMurray.  One was to be avoided because of lots of rocks but the other was suitable for anchoring in calm weather and that’s what we did.  It was a beautiful spot with great views up and down Prince of Wales Reach.

McMurray Bay Sunrise

McMurray Bay Sunrise – looking north

McMurray Bay Sunrise

McMurray Bay Sunrise – looking south

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Hotham Sound

In the main body of Jervis Inlet, heading north, you have the choice of going up Hotham Sound or the reaches of Jervis Inlet.  When we did our initial cruise we headed to Hotham Sound first.

From the mouth of Hotham Sound to the end at Baker Bay is approximately 8 miles (12.8 km) and it is a quite sheltered, beautiful cruise.  Coming around Syren Point you look right up the Sound to two bays at the end – Lena Bay is on the right and Baker Bay is to the left.  It is a very dramatic sight with the Parker Mountain range towering 3600 feet (1100 meters) on the west side of Baker Bay.  We anchored in Baker Bay which proved to be a bit tricky.  Some books say that it is not advisable to anchor there because of poor holding conditions but I had read an account of an old timer on how he had done it and it worked for me after a couple of tries.


We anchored on the west side close to shore, looking up a valley where a seasonal river flows.  The beach is covered with shale-like pebbles and layers of oyster shells.  Hidden in the bushes at the east side of the bay is an old homestead completely overgrown.

In 1912 a copper mine was started at 1500 feet above the bay.  In three years, 330 feet of tunnel had been dug but not enough mineral was found to make it viable and the mine closed in 1916.  There is a very overgrown road that heads toward the mine site but we never made it to the mine and I’m not sure if you can get to it.

We did explore the unusual dry river bed that runs up the valley.  This was July and near the ocean a wide fan of rounded large river rock fanned out through the trees, quite a distance from the main river bed, indicating that large and powerful amounts of water carried the rocks there.  However, when we walked the river bed we had to go up more than a mile before we found any water flowing at all and even then it was just a small stream.  The only way to account for the size of the river bed is a heavy snow melt in the spring.


This entire area of the coast was carved out by the glaciers from the last Ice Age and evidence of the glaciers can be found in the huge erratics (rocks left behind after the glaciers melted) found along the shoreline of Hotham Sound and Jervis Inlet.  What makes it interesting in Hotham Sound is that some of these jumbles of erratics have become dens for seals.  While kayaking along the shoreline we found a couple of spots where seals were obviously denning (the smell was one tip off).

On the east side of Baker Bay is a wonderful lagoon, easily accessible by kayak.  When the tide is low the water warms up and it is a great place to swim.  The sheer towering cliff overlooking the lagoon makes an impressive backdrop.


More shíshálh (Sechelt) pictographs can be found around the point from the lagoon.  These are very faded and hard to decipher.

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Sechelt Rapids – The Skookumchuck

Skookumchuck

An older photograph of the Skookumchuck in action

Heading 4 miles (6.4 km ) north of the mouth of Narrows Inlet brings you to the Sechelt Rapids or as it is more commonly known, the Skookumchuck (Chinook for rough water) Narrows.  Twice every day the tide rises and falls and the water in Sechelt, Narrows and Salmon Inlets either flows in or out of the narrow channel at the Sechelt Rapids.  Eight small islets located in the channel make the passage even more restricted for both boats and water.  At the narrowest point it is only about 400 feet (125 meters) wide and on a 9 foot tide change an estimated 200 billion gallons of water passes through the rapids creating dangerous standing waves and whirlpools.  The water can attain speeds of up to 16 knots (18.4 mph, 37 km/h) and sometimes the difference between water levels on either side of the rapids can be 6.5 feet in height.

Needless to say, a great deal of caution is needed when traversing the rapids.  It is necessary to know when slack tide (the brief period of calm between tide changes) is so that you can make it through the channel safely.  Numerous boats have been lost at the Skookumchuck, the latest in 2009 when a tugboat pulling a barge through the rapids capsized.

Roland Point

Roland Point – a popular spot within the Park to watch the rapids
The rapids are encompassed by the 300 acre (123 hectare) Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park.

Our first experience going through the Skookumchuck was the day after we took command of our boat, Jazz Age.  We picked up the boat in Gibsons, BC, 14 miles down the coast from Sechelt.  We had obtained moorage at the Lighthouse Marina at the head of Sechelt Inlet so we needed to bring the boat up the coast 53 miles (83 km), pass through the Skookumchuck and go 18 miles (30 km) to the end of Sechelt Inlet.  I had about 20 minutes training running the boat so it was somewhat daunting, especially with the Skookumchuck in the back of our minds.  The trip up the coast was beautiful and other than the alternator falling off, uneventful.  By the time we reached the Skookumchuck it was too late to go through that night  so we found a dock and waited until the next morning.

Waiting for Slack

Waiting for the Skookumchuck.
The entrance to the Skookumchuck is straight ahead

The dock we tied up to was 3000 feet from the entrance to the rapids and we had a peaceful, calm evening watching the sun go down.  In the middle of the night we woke to some very unusual noises.  I got up and found the bay we were in was a swirling, boiling mass of water.  The current was pushing the boat up against the dock and it was so powerful I couldn’t have moved the boat if I wanted to.  It wasn’t causing any problems so we went back to bed.  It was very impressive though.

Skookumchuck-south

Heading through. The water with a ‘light boil’

At 9:00 am it looked fairly calm over at the rapids so we thought we’d bite the bullet.  All was quite glassy calm until we got right into the entrance and then water developed the look of a light boil.  We were just a bit too early but since our boat only travelled 7 knots (8 mph) at top speed and the tide was flowing in the right direction, I figured it was probably best just to carry on.  We got through okay though often at a 45 degree angle off where the bow should have been pointing.  Jazz Age was 36 feet long and heavy but the power of the water was very impressive.

We have been through the rapids several time since then and each time it has been dead calm.

Skookumchuck-north

Heading north through the Skookumchuck. This is how it should look when you go through.

For those adventurous spirits the rapids have become a popular spot for whitewater kayakers who surf the standing wave that forms off Roland Point.  The rapids are also a very popular diving spot because of the abundance of sea life but obviously your timing has to be right!

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Tillicum Bay

Tillicum Bay

This photograph is looking across the Inlet to Tillicum Bay.  To the right of centre is the Tillicum Bay Marina and to the left, one of the many work boats that cruise the Inlet – this one is an old converted car ferry.  The work boats carry supplies and crews to fish farms, power projects and logging operations located in the different arms of Sechelt Inlet.  The point of land between the marina and the boat is owned by Target Marine Hatcheries, who raise sturgeon for organic caviar and meat.

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Jazz Age

Jazz Age

I’m going to start this series with a tour of Sechelt Inlet which my family and I have explored by kayak and on our 1930’s wooden boat, Jazz Age.  The head of the inlet is just a couple of kilometers from our home and the entire inlet is an amazing body of water.  It extends north from the town of Sechelt BC, through the Skookumchuck tidal rapids to Egmont, a distance of about 20 miles (32 km).  Branching off the right side of the inlet are two other inlets, Salmon (14 miles – 23 km long) and Narrows (9 miles -15 km long).

I’ll be sharing photos of our explorations during the past several years and I hope you enjoy the experience as much as we did.