Bishop's Cove to Lowe Inlet (via Hartley Bay)

Verney Passage
May 29, 2015

We left Bishop's Cove and turned north up Ursula Channel to get to the top of Gribble Island, and then southwest for a 13 mile sojourn through the breathtaking scenery of Verney Passage.  It is easy to become inured to the beauty that is a constant presence along this route, but this passage is particularly striking, and one wonders how many people have ever explored these remote cirques and imposing rockfaces.  I bet there are a lot of first ascent opportunities yet to be found there.

Bishop's Cove to Hartley Bay to Lowe's Inlet (Google Earth)
At the bottom of placid Verney Passage we turned the corner onto Wright Sound, and immediately were caught up in head winds and chop, and though we had only 4 miles of the Sound to cross, it was lumpy, and we were happy enough to get to Hartley Bay.  Wright Sound is at the confluence of several major waterways, two of which lead to the sea fairly directly.  As with any such plenum, the churning of currents and winds can be unpleasant.  Douglas Channel is a large passage that leads north to Kitimat from here, and the inflow and outflow winds up and down Douglas are a major determinant of sea conditions, so much so that they earn specific mention in the regional VHF weather reports each day.

Kitimat is the location of a planned oil terminal for international transport of crude, and there is local concern about the damage that a major spill would wreak in the area.  The First Nation sentiment seems universally opposed, but the coastal communities are sparse and poorly represented in the halls of power. Perhaps the new Canadian leadership will help, but the strongest ally the natives have now is probably the crashing oil market.

Whale channel, which communicates with Wright Sound in the north, and the Gulf of Alaska in the south, is aptly named.  On our return trip in late July, I don't think we were ever out of sight and hearing of whales in that area. The devastation that would result from an accident in these constrained channels, both to wildlife and people, is appalling to imagine.  The remediation record of oil companies does not inspire confidence.

We refueled at Hartley Bay, a small native community with a free government dock and fuel, but no provisions. While we were refueling, there was a bake sale going on for the local school, and I regret not asking if auslander were qualified buyers!

We slipped away from Hartley Bay through Stewart Passage, and turned northwest onto Grenville. We already had 8 hours and 35 miles under our belt for the day, so we chose Lowe Inlet as our anchorage for the night, the closest anchorage to the south end of Grenville Channel.  It was in these last hours of the day that we had the first rain shower of the entire trip! Truly unprecedented Spring weather.

The turnoff into Lowe Inlet from Grenville Channel
Lowe Inlet had several large boats in its spacious confines, including our friends on Bedlam.  We came in last of course, but were able to take advantage of the best anchoring spot in the place, in the outflow of Verney Falls.  This is a place noted for bear feeding on salmon as the salmon try to work their way up the falls.  We were too early for the salmon run, but anchoring in the outflow of the falls gives you a ringside seat and a musical evening from the rushing water.  The holding is only fair according to the guide books: dicey for large boats, but fine for a boat as small and light as Ripple.

Verney Falls in Lowe Inlet
That evening Bedlam's inflatable came over and the brothers from Vancouver chatted us up a bit, and invited us to come over and have a drink with them.  After we had eaten dinner and had a drink of our own, we rowed over but they had gone to bed by that time.  Pity... I would like to have seen their boat from the inside.

Mathias cooking dinner in our tiny cabin
I confess to occasional envy of the accommodations and comforts enjoyed by those on larger boats. At the same time I take great satisfaction in the spare competence of Ripple. Our accommodations were simple, our living spaces cramped, and storage was scarce. Just having a dodger was a great luxury! But there was enough of what we needed,  and many a night I lay in my berth drifting off to sleep, awash in the security I felt in this wonderful boat, graced with the company of one of my sons or one of the life-long friends who had come to the Inside Passage to voyage with me.


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